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2015 Harvest Snapshot

2015 Harvest Snapshot

Harvest is arguably the busiest time of year on the farm.  A dry end of summer and early fall throughout much of the Midwest meant that corn and soybeans crops “dried down” quickly, reaching the moisture levels at which farmers are keen to harvest and the crop is ready to come out of the field.

It was a flurry of activity for farmers and farm managers alike:  Moore & Warner managers take this time of year to “ride along” in the combine with farmers on client properties.  It is a time to review the progress and success of the crop being brought in, discuss improvements to a farm, and start to plan for the year ahead.

For those far from the farm and agricultural operations, some photos and typical scenes from harvest time:



Estimating Corn Yield

Estimating Corn Yield

August 19, 2015

At this point in the season, it’s common to get back out into the field to do an early “yield check” or “yield estimate” to forecast the ultimate yield come harvest. The recent decreases in grain prices are due not just to the devaluation of the Chinese Yuan (which makes US grain more expensive for China to import and therefore reduces Chinese demand for US grain), but to good reports from the field about crop health and strong initial yield checks. The season started off wet throughout much of the Midwest, but the 2015 crop seems to have recovered a significant amount.

How do you do a corn yield check?

Crop modeling tools and farm software are increasingly offering “tech” versions of a yield estimate that only requires logging into your computer. These tools are based on planting date, the growing degree units (i.e. heat) available to the crop through the season, precipitation, soils, and a number of other factors and the resulting estimate can be quite good and are getting better.

But an in-field yield estimate is still very common and provides hands-on information not available from a computer screen.

There are a multiple ways to estimate yields using sample ears, but unless you have access to scale and moisture testers, the below method is the easiest.

The basic idea is to count ears and kernels from several sample areas in a field and use that information to extrapolate a yield for the entire field/farm. Here’s how you do it:

For a farm with 30in corn rows (the most common):

(1) Pace or measure off 17.5 feet (17.5ft of 1 row of corn planted at 30in rows is 1/1000th of an acre)


(2) Count the number of harvestable ears in the 17.5’ sample strip. (There might be missing stalks, missing ears, or downed corn that cannot be harvested.)

(3) Pick and shuck 3 representative ears.


(4) Count the number of kernel rows per ear, and the number of kernels per row. Calculate the average kernels per ear for the 3 ears, and the average of kernels per row.


(5) Calculate the yield. Estimated Yield = (# ears per 17.5’) x (Avg # of kernel rows per ear) x (Avg # of kernels per row) / 85.

(6) Repeat 4 or more times per field, depending on field variability and average results for a field estimate.


Is a yield check or yield estimate reliable?

Yield estimate are helpful, but not perfect.  The two biggest challenges with the method above come from kernel size and sample areas.  If the ears sampled have heavier or lighter kernels than average, the estimate will be off.



Spring 2015 Illinois Crop Progress

Spring 2015 Illinois Crop Progress


Once again this year planting conditions have been nearly ideal in our area.  Most of the corn in DeWitt County, Illinois and surrounding counties was planted during a very short time frame.  With only a few exceptions the corn on our Illinois farms was planted between April 15th and 18th.  Depending upon the weather during pollination in early July and kernel fill later in the summer our corn harvest this fall will be very similar across all our farms this fall.

Soybean planting followed closely behind the corn and was also completed in a small window of time with the majority of our soybeans being planted during the first week of May.  We consider these dates as optimum for giving the corn and soybeans on our farms a great start.

As of today the corn crop is rated at 74% good to excellent by the USDA which is exactly the same as last year at this time when we were on our way to record corn yields.  Soybean planting is a little behind last year’s record pace, but still ahead of average.   There is still a long time until harvest, but the 2015 corn and soybean crops are off to a very good start in Central Illinois.

Land Values

The following information is provided by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago regarding agricultural land in the Seventh Federal Reserve District, which includes both Illinois and Iowa.

  • During the calendar year 2014 land values decreased by three percent in Illinois and by seven percent in Iowa.
  • Cash rental rates for agricultural land in both Illinois and Iowa decreased in 2015 compared with 2014.
  • Expectations are that farmland values will continue to decline along with farm incomes in the short term.


At Moore & Warner Farm Management, we are very excited about the 2015 crop season and agriculture in general.  We work with experienced and innovative farm operators; maintain accurate fertility levels on the properties we manage; select seed varieties that perform best in specific locations and on each specific farm; implement good conservation practices; and monitor the crop progress throughout the entire year on each of our farms to help ensure the best possible results in 2015 and into the future.

Landowners and Syngenta Corn Class Action

Landowners and Syngenta Corn Class Action

Farmers and landowners across corn-growing states have been reading media reports and receiving letters from law firms about litigation against Syngenta for its Agrisure Viptera corn.  In this blog post, Moore & Warner discusses the issue behind the class action case against Syngenta, which farm owners are affected, and other considerations.

Please note this post is for general informational purposes only.  Moore & Warner does not provide legal advice, and landowners and farmers should speak with their attorneys or legal counsel familiar with these cases to discuss their particular situation.

What is Agrisure Viptera Corn, and why is there a law suit about it?

Agrisure Viptera Corn is a genetically modified corn variety developed by Syngenta.  It is also known as Syngenta MIR 162, which refers to the genetic trait characterizing the variety.  Syngenta received commercial approval from regulatory bodies in the United States and the corn was first planted by farmers in the 2010-2011 crop year.

China detected MIR 162 in US corn shipments in late 2013 and began rejecting US corn shipments until it finally approved MIR 162 imports in late 2014.  China is a major consumer of US corn and the corn market loss associated with its rejection of corn shipments is estimated into the billions of dollars.

The class action lawsuit alleges that Syngenta failed to uphold commercial best practices when it introduced Viptera, resulting in “contaminated” shipments to China, and the subsequent market loss.  Since corn is a global commodity, the argument continues, any US producer or landowner who sold corn during that time frame would have suffered from lower market prices.

The potential for thousands and thousands of plaintiffs is why a class action lawsuit has developed.

Will farmland owners be eligible to receive any awards or claims in the class action suit against Syngenta?

Potentially, depending on lease type.  A class action settlement would likely result in claims paid based on corn bushels marketed during the impacted time period.  Therefore farmland owners with corn market exposure under the terms of their lease would be in the best standing to file a receive a claim.

Farmland owners with crop share and custom leases who own and market grain off their farms are in a similar position to producers (farmers) and would be in a strong position for a claim based on their grain sales.

Flex-rent cash rent landowners whose flex or bonus payments were tied to commodity prices might also have a claim.

Fixed cash-rent landowners whose per-acre payments are negotiated on an annual basis would likely have a weaker argument since they cannot point to specific bushels sold at specific prices during the relevant time period.

Ultimately, suitability for a claim is question for a landowner’s attorney.

Are there any alternatives to the class action lawsuit against Syngenta?

Yes.  A number of law firms are sending letters about filing law suits separate from the class action (but that may still involve a large number of plaintiffs).  These are “opt-in” law suits with different legal counsel, plaintiffs, and terms.  The decision to pursue a separate law suit against Syngenta is really a question specific to each individual landowner based on their appetite to be involved in legal proceedings, the size of a potential claim, and other issues a landowner should explore with their own attorney.

Inside a Late Winter Farm Auction

Inside a Late Winter Farm Auction

March 3, 2015

Where are farmland values headed in 2015?

The 60 farmland auction attendees at the Wapella Auction House in the Central Illinois town of Wapella were wondering this very question as they sipped coffee and ate donuts on the last Saturday morning of February.

The public land auction is one option for farmland owners who hope to realize the maximum possible sale price through an open bidding process.  The auction “season” – and the farmland sale season in general – is typically fall through late winter.

During this period, farmers, who make up 68% of farmland buyers according to the Illinois Society of Professional Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers, are finished with harvest and not yet busy with planting.  Farms sold in this time frame are also typically sold with an “open lease” and are ready to be farmed by the purchaser or a new tenant in the coming season.

Every auction and auction company are a little different, but buyers and spectators can expect some common attributes.

What preparation goes into a farm auction?

The auction company advertises by direct mail, posters, and on its website.  Information provided includes the basic terms of sale and as much information about the farm (acres, aerial and soil maps, soil tests, yield history, etc.) as possible.  The property may or may not be made available for physical inspection during an “open house” or by appointment.

Where are farmland auctions held?

Because the majority of buyers are local farmers, and the strongest bidders tend to be neighbors, expect an auction to be held close to the location of the farm.  Most auctions are not held in auction houses, but rather in a rec hall (e.g. Eagles, VFW, fairground building) that the auction company rents for the occasion.  The Wapella Auction House is conveniently located in farm country.

Farmland Auction at Wapella Auction House

What are the requirements to attend and bid at a farm auction?

Many auction companies require all attendees to register upon admittance and issue bidding numbers at this time.  The sale to the winning bidder is not contingent on financing:  potential buyers need to have secured any necessary financing in advance.  At the close of the auction the winning bidder is expected to enter into a purchase and sale agreement and provide a down payment or earnest money.  The seller or their representative is present to accept the final bid and execute the paperwork.

How does the farm auction process actually work?

Auctions begin with the auctioneer or the seller’s attorney reviewing the key terms of sale.  An overview of the farms may be made in a presentation by the auctioneer, provided on displays throughout the room, or included in an auction brochure.  The auctioneer and seller determine how best to offer multiple tracts for sale: they might be bundled together, offered individually, or offered in any configuration that nets the greatest proceeds to the seller.

In Wapella, the auctioneer offered the three tracts by “buyers choice” — the highest bidder could choose any or all of the three tracts at the winning per-acre bid.  And then bidding would recommence on any unsold tracts.  Ultimately, each tract sold separately in the order of desirability.

The auctioneer usually works with several helpers who work the room and potential bidders, handle telephone bidders, answer general questions, help coordinate buyers interested in specific tracts to cooperate on a winning bid, and raise the general excitement of the crowd.

How does bidding work at a farm auction?

An auctioneer sets the opening bid and guides the bidding process.  Prices may be quoted as a total parcel price, or in dollar-per-acre pricing.  In Wapella, the auctioneer set per-acre-pricing, with $100/acre bidding increments.  When bidding slows or stalls, it is common for an auctioneer to call a short break before restarting.  Some auction companies use a white board or a projector to show the leading bids and bidder numbers.

The number of attendees does not always reflect the number of active buyers:  of the 60 people in Wapella, only three were active bidders.

So… where is the farmland market headed in 2015? 

The three tracts that sold in Wapella on Saturday morning went for $10,800/acre (77 acres), $9,850/acre (40 acres), and $8,500/acre (19 acres) – confirming a continued softening of the market and a year-over-year decrease of 10-15%.

The remaining auctions on the calendar over the next month will provide a few additional opportunities for price discovery before attention is drawn back into the field and sowing a new year’s crops.

At Moore & Warner, we are advising clients looking to purchase farm ground to form a buying strategy and define purchasing criteria now in order to be ready for the attractive opportunities we expect will become available later in the year.