The August USDA Crop Production report estimates this year's U.S. corn crop will be a near record breaker on two counts: total production and average bushels per acre. The September report will confirm one of the ways this feat might be accomplished. It will include ear and plant population counts.
USDA took ear counts in August but doesn't release those numbers state-by-state. Still, Joe Prusacki, director of Statistics for USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service, says the national average ear count, at about 27,600, is a big one.
"That's huge, that's the largest we've ever had," Prusacki said. "We expected, based on current technology trends and what farmers are doing, about 250 more ears per acre this year than last year just based on typical trends."
However, 2009 is not a typical trend year. According to Prusacki Illinois and Indiana, two states that suffered a very late start to the planting season, have ear counts very similar to last year. However in the Western Corn Belt in Iowa, Minnesota and Nebraska it's a different story.
"Boy in all three of those states we're talking multiple percentage points increases over last year," Prusacki said. "Okay well what's going on there? Those farmers in those areas got that crop in pretty early and there's crop development going on; there's just a lot of ears per acre coming out."
When enumerators take ear counts they count all the ears they can feel in a twenty-foot plot over two rows. The second ears on a plant are counted if there is ear formation. There is a second part of the calculation related to the ear and that's weight. USDA forecast this season's weight as the second highest on record, but Prusacki says the August ear weight forecast is mostly made up of a five-year weighted average. The next USDA Crop Report will be released Sept. 11.