NEW HAMPTON, Iowa, Aug 22 (Reuters) - Corn yield potential showed signs of improvement across west-central Iowa, scouts on an annual crop tour said on Thursday, but the area was still expected to produce a below-average sized crop after extreme weather delayed planting this past spring.
Soybeans were also looking better on the fourth and final day of the Pro Farmer tour, scouts said, a rare bright spot in a U.S. Farm Belt struggling with the U.S.-China trade war in addition to poor crop weather.
“I’m impressed. The corn yields continue to rise. It looks like a very nice, very normal crop year here,” said Jere Solvie, 69, grain and hog farmer from west Central Minnesota, who is a scout on the tour. “I wish our crops looked like this: nice and green and lush.”
Corn yield potential averaged 173 bushels per acre (bpa) through 10 stops in the Iowa counties of Iowa, Poweshiek, Marshall, Tama, Grundy and Butler counties.
That is down from last year’s crop tour average in those areas of 193.55 bpa and the three-year tour average of 185.23 bpa.
The tour does not estimate soybean yield potential, but instead calculated the number of soy pods in a 3-foot-by-3-foot square.
In the Iowa counties visited on Thursday, soybeans averaged 914.04 pods, down from 1175.19 pods last year and the three-year average of 1116.17 pods.
“No question, the crop has been getting better. It looks like it’s going to be at least an average or near average crop for Iowa,” said Dick Overby, 85, a retired farmer and a crop insurance agent, who is a scout on the tour.
The farm community and commodity traders are closely watching the four-day crop tour after grain futures prices plunged in the wake of a U.S. Department of Agriculture report earlier this month that forecast a larger-than-expected corn crop.
A second leg that scouted three counties in Minnesota - Jackson, Martin and Faribault counties - with six stops found soybeans averaged 900.17 pods - below last year’s 1,074.45 pods and the three year average of 1,094.65 pods.
Scouts on the route also found corn yield potential averages of 181.62 bpa. That is up from last year’s 171.65 bpa and down from the three year average of 182.84 bpa.
Scouts from the different routes are set to meet in Rochester, Minnesota, on Thursday for the final tour summary. The trade publication Pro Farmer, which organizes the annual tour, will crunch the collected data and release its U.S. crop production and yield forecasts on Friday. (Editing by Caroline Stauffer Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)