I am currently embarking on a cross-country journey from San Francisco, CA to Rochester, NY, and while driving through the corn belt, we wanted to provide an early look at the 2020 corn and soybean crops. Typically, crop tours do not commence until late-July or August, but why not get a sneak peek at this year’s progress?

Yesterday, my journey started in Salt Lake City, UT, and 13 hours of driving was ahead for me before stopping in Lincoln, NE. My GPS had me tracking along I-80 almost the entire way, which covered the southern portion of western, central, and eastern Nebraska. This area of the corn belt will be our focus for the Day 1 report.

To get us grounded, Nebraska ranks third in anticipated corn acreage at 10.5 million acres and eighth in soybeans at 5.1 million acres, per March’s Prospective Plantings report. That’s nearly a 2:1 ratio of corn to beans.

As I drove past the end of eastern Wyoming and into western Nebraska, the first of the grain crops appeared. Wheat fields were the first crop to appear, with progressively more corn. Finally, soybeans started popping up further east. Most fields were still in the early emergence stage, but some corn was about shin high. Soybeans were still in early emergence.

About 50 miles east, in Cheyenne County, NE, most of the corn was knee-high and looked good overall (see west Nebraska corn 1 & 2 pictures). The fields that looked the best had irrigation systems, with almost all of them applying water at the time I drove by. The region overall looked “drier” and could likely use some rain prior to pollination in a few weeks. Fields without irrigation were sparser, and some yellowing was noticeable on the leaves. Corn seemed to outplant beans in this region by easily a 4 to 1 ratio.

West Nebraska corn 1.

West Nebraska corn 2.

As we left from west to central Nebraska, driving past Dawson and Buffalo counties, corn seemed to dominate the acreage. It was very difficult to spot any soybean fields for nearly a 90-minute stretch in this region. The corn looked great, well irrigated and healthy. Field sizes also became noticeably larger and were starting to follow the interstate almost continuously. Corn was knee-high in this region with some approaching waist-height.

Driving into eastern Nebraska, about an hour outside of Lincoln, the corn was even higher (see east Nebraska corn 1, 2, and 3), with most fields waist-high and some even chest-high (4 feet). This corn also looked very green and healthy, with soil and surrounding area still moist from recent rains. I would say the corn here is one to two weeks from pollination. More soybean acreage was finally seen, with solid progress noted in the earlier stages. The more mature fields had beans standing about 6 to 10 inches. Overall, this area ramped up notably in size, maturity, and for the ratio of beans to corn. I would still say corn dominated at a 4:1 ratio, however. After driving the last two hours, you can definitely tell we were approaching the heart of the Corn Belt.

East Nebraska corn 1.

East Nebraska corn 2.

East Nebraska corn 3.

The weather conditions yesterday were hot and windy all day. Temperatures were in the high 80s to low 90s across the state and winds a solid 20 mph with some gusts that had to be near 30. It felt like a leaf blower blasting hot air in your face! I’m sure the crops do not like that for too long, especially those in a drier field! Western Nebraska is definitely dry and could use more rain, while the east appears to be doing just fine.

All in all, I would say a very good start for the crops in this state, with the eastern part looking particularly good. Today’s trip takes me through the heart of the Belt: through Omaha, NE; central Iowa; central Illinois; and central Indiana before stopping in Indianapolis, IN. Looking forward to more good sights and potentially some crops already in pollination!

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