Pennsylvania Crops: Good, But No Record Breaker

Pennsylvania - Somerset County crop assessment. Participants (l. to r.) Brian Ishman, , Ed Kreider, and Albert McIntier. Photo: Zach Larson

During the last week of August, extension educators and private industry representatives teamed up for a Pennsylvania Crop Tour to survey over 100 corn and soybean fields to document crop conditions for the 2018 growing season. While there were a lot of good looking fields, there were a few surprises, too.

At times we thought the frequent precipitation may result in record yields, however the weather created its share of problems making the outlook very good, but things could have been better if Mother Nature was a little more cooperative.

The long planting season resulted in a wide range of maturity in many parts of the state, particularly in corn. Early planted fields seem to be coming along with many fully dented while later ones were still not in tassel at the end of August. However, observations in the northern tier found that fields were consistently behind those farther south. In addition to stretching out the planting season, rain wreaked havoc on planting conditions, resulting in some fields with slightly lower populations due to un-emerged plants and fields of uneven emergence.

Nitrogen deficiency and erratic stands were a common sight this year as abundant rainfall likely resulted in leaching on well drained soils and denitrification in poorly drained areas. Those that were able to split-apply nitrogen appeared to have fared better than those who applied all their nitrogen up front or relied primarily on manure.

Heavy and frequent rainfall also impacted the residual activity of many herbicides, with numerous fields having poor weed control by the end of the growing season.

Poor tip fill was a common sight during the crop tour as shown from this field in Berks County. Image Credit: Dave Wilson

Gray leaf spot was abundant in 2018. It vastly outnumbered occurrences of northern corn leaf blight and was widespread and high into crop canopies in many fields. Although high humidity and frequent rain brought concerns of widespread ear rots, there was relatively little observed across the state during the survey. Insect pressure was relatively low as well, with earworms being most frequently observed.

Gray leaf spot was abundant this year with many fields having affected leaves high into the canopy as seen in a field in Centre County. Image Credit: Adrianna Murillo-Williams

The broad range of crop maturities made making regional and statewide estimates difficult, as it is unknown how later planted fields will turn out. Yields were estimated on typical-for-the-region planting dates, so end of year averages may vary widely from the numbers we collected, particularity in the northern tier, our region showing the most variation.

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There was also no account for fields that were not planted due to wet conditions. In north-central PA, yield estimates of surveyed fields ranged from the 120’s to over 200 with an average in the 160 bushel range. In the central and south-central parts of the state, estimates of yields ranged from the 130’s to over 200, and an average in the mid-160’s.

In the west, yield estimates of surveyed fields were slightly lower, falling into the 110 to 180 bushel range and averaging around 150. In the southeast, larger kernel sizes and excellent grain fill were noted and yields ranged from 160 to the high 200’s, with an average of surveyed fields at 180 bushels. Based on our survey fields, the average yield was approximately 170 bushels per acre.

Across the state soybeans, were both consistent in condition and promising in yield. Beans planted at typical-for-the-area dates were maturing nicely with nearly all fields at or nearing completion of pod fill. In terms of overall field conditions, most canopied well, had very good height and many pods per plant. However, abundant rainfall did impact heavier and poorly drained soils where thinner stands, less healthy plants and fewer pods per plants were observed.

Disease was certainly an issue in soybeans this year. Our two most common diseases of frogeye leafspot and brown spot were in abundance with frequent occurrences of downy mildew as well. Moist conditions and high-yield environments did result in some occurrences of white mold, although no field-wide infestations were seen in the survey. Some fields that were surveyed did receive a mid-season fungicide application and consequently showed less disease pressure than others in their respective areas.

Despite planting challenges and disease pressure, soybeans across the state were generally in excellent condition like this field in Lebanon County. Image Credit: Del Voight


Insects populations remained in check this year with bean leaf beetles, aphids and Japanese beetles present in tolerable numbers. Although not in any of the fields surveyed this year, soybean thrips were somewhat common, particularly in the southeastern corner of the state as well as a few fields in the western areas. Overall, insects likely had little economic impact on fields across the state.

As this was our first tour, we gained a lot of experience and feedback on soybean yield estimates and we are looking to refine them in the future. However, overall conditions show promise for good soybean yields in many fields across the state with the only exception being some fields in poorly drained areas.

Overall this year looks to be a good one, although it may not be one for the record books. The 2018 Pennsylvania Crop Tour was a great success and provided everyone involved with some interesting insights on our crop conditions. Completing so many estimates in such short time is no small feat and we thank all who volunteered their time to make this a successful event including our industry partners below:

Albert McIntier Jr. Bedford Farm Bureau Co-op
Brad Dressler Channel Seeds
Brian Ishman Local Seed Company
Dan Winters Winters Ag
Ed Kreider Growmark FS
Eric Rosenbaum Rosetree Consulting / PA Corn Growers
Gary Brown Providence Agriculture
Jeff Schoener Growmark FS
Jim Jordan Nutrien Ag Solutions
Joe Anchor Keystone Group Agricultural Seeds
Josh Fairchild Growmark FS
Karl Kroeck Pioneer
Kaycee Browell Pioneer
Keith Daly Nutrien Ag Solutions
Matt Fenton Deerfield Ag Services
Mike Kuhns Chemgro
Ray Pletcher Timac Agro
Rob Thompson Thompson Farms LLC

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