A lot of people misuse the plethora of data that comes from the Pro Farmer crop tour. Unlike the USDA, the crop tour mostly goes through the higher-producing areas of the states visited. Still, there are exceptions, like Nebraska and South Dakota where scouts visit areas based on time and geographic constraints.
The tour doesn’t attempt to replicate the USDA’s methods for determining yield. For corn, they don’t attempt to weigh ears because it is generally too early in the development process. Hence they have to make an assumption on the number of kernels per bushel.
For soybeans, Pro Farmer scouts count the pods in a 3-foot by 3-foot square area. The USDA’s area is twice as big. USDA enumerators also count nodes and blossoms.
The Pro Farmer data collected last week provides some useful insight, for soybeans in particular. With corn, the USDA provides an ear count in August. But for soybeans it does not provide pod count data until September.
Armed with the Pro Farmer data, one can develop expectations of what the USDA’s September report might indicate.
We use an acreage weighted pod count from the individual state tour data. The tour pod count averages 67 percent of the USDA count for the same states. The last three years, it has consistently been 66 percent. That suggests the USDA pod count for the same states could be near 1,850 pods.
That leaves most of the uncertainty with the pod weight. Over the past four years, pod weights in these seven states has ranged from 0.073 pounds/100 pods to 0.076 pounds with an average near 0.0735. Implied pod weights for the September report have averaged .0745. That implies a 54.45 bushel yield for the coming report in these states and a national yield of 50.4 bushels.
But with producers again hearing high yield expectations, their input into the USDA forecasting process should keep the USDA yield at 51.5 bushels, if not indicating one slightly higher.