Agronomists agree Corn Belt crop looks good overall, but needs rain

Agronomists from across the Corn Belt agree that corn looks pretty good so far this season, but most areas really need some rain as the crop enters the rapid growth stage.

During the AgriGold Specialty Products Conference held virtually Thursday, regional agronomists were part of a panel to review the 2021 planting season an assess current crop conditions.

Western Corn Belt

Kris Young covers Kansas, northern Oklahoma and eastern Colorado while keeping in touch with their Nebraska and Iowa-based agronomists. He says in his area, the earlier planted corn looks the best.

“Looking at the overall condition of the crop in our area, I’d say 10% is excellent, 50-60% is in the good rating and then 20-30% kind of in that average.”

But he says the future of this crop is riding on the weather.  

“That corn is going to hang on pretty good for the next 10-14 days, but going into tassel if things don’t improve from a rain standpoint, we are going to see a lot of that corn start to go backwards. I think you could say that for the whole corn belt, especially in the west and up into Iowa where they are dryer than normal. The next two weeks are going to be pretty critical.”

He says corn replant was minimal in his area this year, but they are seeing the usual green snap issues with higher winds.


Missouri-based AgriGold agronomist Jason Mefford says corn planting this year was a bit of a roller coaster.

Planting kicked off around Easter but farmers ended up replanting a lot from that window.

“Because of such cool soils and we got into mid-April with some really hard freezes and some snow. So, we had some chilling injury to corn. The corn planted in that window that did come up is uneven.”

He says the best stands are from corn planted in mid-April, because the mid-May planting window was followed by several days of rain.

“Basically, everything planted May 12-14 has been replanted, so there is a substantial amount of corn that just got planted the first part of June.”

Aside from weather, Mefford is most concerned about sulfur and nitrogen deficiencies.

“A lot of guys are top dressing and side dressing. I’m just not sure if they are putting on enough to make it through the end of the season.”

Under current conditions, he rates corn in Missouri about 10% excellent and 30-40% good. He says the rest looks good, but was planted much later.


Kevin Gale covers the northern and east central sections of Illinois. He says timely planting dates have the Illinois corn crop looking really good, but it needs rain ahead of pollination.  

“We can still grow a good crop with a dry June, there is no doubt about it. We can get roots established especially on out heavy soils, but we are going to need timely rainfall to get that accomplished.”

He says planting got off to a strong start with over 50% of corn in the ground by May 2nd.

“A week ago we were about 74% good to excellent in Illinois. Those rating have dropped about 6% recently. Overall, I think out condition is good but we are going to need some rain here as we move into the rapid growth stage and pollination.”

He says weather in his area this season has been quite different from the past few years.

“Specifically Interstate 80 and north, we are growing pineapples right now”, he joked. “I think we are bout the 3rd driest June on record in Chicago, which is the driest since 1934. When you compare to 2019 and 2020 those were about the 2nd and 3rd wettest Junes on record.”

He says corn replant was down this year, with most of it happening in central Illinois because of frequent spring rains.

Eastern Corn Belt

Joe Stephan covers northern Indiana and parts of Michigan. He says farmers in the eastern corn belt had three different planting windows, but each resulted in minimal replanting.

“Last year I bet we had 10,000 units of corn replanted and this year it is going to be under 500 bags total for the region, so that tends to tell you that the stands are much better.”

He says the area has been short on moisture most of the season, but the crop remains resilient.

“Southern Michigan is just amazing. They planted more corn in April than I think they had ever planted. It was dry going into April and those farmers were planting at the fastest pace they’ve ever gotten and are now sitting on a pretty good crop if they could get some continuous rain.”

Another issue this year has been sulfur deficiencies.

“I don’t think it is going to be a big issue, it is just showing that our root development probably isn’t quite where we want it to be. The cooler soils that we had in late May slowed down root development and mineralization where we weren’t getting the sulfur we would normally get especially in those dark soils.”

Under current conditions, he rates the crop in his area around 75% good to excellent.


Josh Johnston says farmers in his territory of western Kentucky and northern Tennessee had three planting windows for corn this season and conditions vary greatly between each one.

Farmers were off to the races planting on April 1st until they got snowed out on April 21st.

“I wish we had gotten done in that window. Really crops planted in those first 17 days are looking pretty sharp. None of those stands are perfect but probably all of them are better than 28,000. Those fields will start tasseling next week and I look for yields from that planting window to be really good.”

However, Johnston says that was only about one third of the crop. Another third was planted over six suitable days the last two weeks in April before it rained consistently for three weeks.

“Absolutely nothing happened. It was too muddy to even spray. We were at a dead stop. That corn planted at the end of April really struggled. I bet we have replanted 90% of the corn that was planted in that window.”

But when the rain stopped, most farmers were finished up by May 25th and the crop came up five days later with pretty good stands.

This month has been cool and wet and that stuff has really taken a major turn backwards. It was sitting there at V5 in terribly inclement conditions. It was yellow and stunted, so I am a little concerned about that planting window having fewer kernel rows around.”

Based on those three windows he expects Kentucky corn yields will be right around average this year.

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