October 22, 2019 / 7:28 AM / 21 days ago

Column: Crop Watch: Corn and soy yields fall after a busy week of harvest

FORT COLLINS, Colo. (Reuters) - Six more U.S. Crop Watch corn and soybean fields were harvested in the latest week, the busiest one yet for the participating growers, and the results reduced the overall yield scores for both crops. Particularly for corn, it appears that largely favorable weather during the growing season could not outweigh some of the earlier problems with moisture during and just after planting.

Farmer Lucas Richard of LFR Grain harvests a crop of soybeans at a farm in Hickory, North Carolina, U.S. November 29, 2018. REUTERS/Charles Mostoller

Only four of the 16 fields remain: the corn in Nebraska, Minnesota and North Dakota, and the soybeans in North Dakota. The Minnesota and Nebraska fields should be ready for harvest within the next two weeks, but the timeline remains uncertain in North Dakota amid the waterlogged conditions.

Crop Watch 2019 follows one corn and one soybean field in eight major U.S. Corn Belt states, reporting on weekly progress as of Sunday. The fields belong to the same eight growers from last year’s Crop Watch.

The producers have been evaluating yield potential weekly on a scale from 1 to 5 since June. The lowest score is well below farm average, 3 is near farm average, and 5 is well above. A score of 4, for example, would be above the recent field average by about 5% to 10%. For simplicity, the eight-state averages are not weighted in any way.

The eight-field average for corn yield fell to 3.28 from 3.47 in the previous week. A surprisingly good result in Ohio was offset by disappointing results in Illinois and Iowa, and cuts to expectations in North Dakota and Minnesota.

Soybean yield dropped to 3.28 from 3.41 in the previous week as a lighter yield in Minnesota and deteriorating expectations in North Dakota offset a slightly better result in Nebraska.

EAST CENTRAL NORTH DAKOTA

The producer reduced expected corn and soybean yield by a half-point each, bringing corn to 2 and soybeans to 1.5. Both fields had up to 24 inches (0.61 m) of snow on them at one point last week, and this has knocked some of the soybeans over. It has also added to the already-saturated conditions in the area, rendering many roads impassible and fields inaccessible. Flood warnings remain in effect for the Red River and its tributaries.

The grower notes that a lot of area soybeans are underwater, and he estimates that up to 8% of soy acres may not be able to be harvested. The corn fields are also wet, and the producer believes poor test weights may end up lowering yields. Recent frost has killed the corn plants, and now local farmers are waiting for the crops to dry down for harvest, which may take a while.

Last year, the Crop Watch corn was harvested on Dec. 12 with a final yield score of 4.5. The 2018 soybeans were cut on Oct. 25 with a yield of 4.

SOUTHERN MINNESOTA

The soybeans were finished on Friday with a final yield rating of 3.25, below the prior expectation for 4. The producer believes that too much rain and cool weather, and then a dry spell in August, were the reasons for the lower result. He finished all of his bean fields late last week, and the full harvest yield was 5 bushels lower than in the previous year. A lot of beans were cut in the area last week.

The producer reduced corn yield to 3.5 from 3.75 as some of his early results in other fields are several bushels lower than he expected. Corn harvest has just begun in the area, and the Crop Watch field should be finished within the next two weeks assuming no delays.

NORTHEAST NEBRASKA

The soybeans were harvested on Thursday with a final yield of 3.5, above the most recent expectation for 3.25. The producer attributes this to good pest management and late-season moisture. The bean harvest picked up speed in the area last week, but corn is still mostly untouched. Harvest began later than desired due to excessively wet conditions. The subject corn field should be harvested within 10 days, and the yield score remains at 4.25.

CENTRAL KANSAS

The soybeans were finished on Friday with a final yield of 3.5, in line with expectations. The producer believes a slightly higher score would have been possible without the hard freeze 10 days earlier. Soybeans are up to 60% harvested in the area, and results have been near or slightly above average.

Corn is about 85% complete in the area, and dryland results are average to slightly below. The subject corn field was harvested on Sept. 26 with a final yield of 3. The area is about 75% complete with winter wheat planting.

EAST CENTRAL IOWA

The corn field was harvested on Saturday with a final yield of 3.75, slightly below the expectation for 4. The producer believes that the excessive moisture early on led to nitrogen loss and weaker plants. He hoped early-planted corn such as the Crop Watch field would escape that fate, but it seemingly did not. A lot of soybeans were cut in the area last week and very little corn was harvested, though moisture levels were still elevated for both crops. The soybeans were harvested on Oct. 9 with a final yield of 3.75.

SOUTHEAST ILLINOIS

The corn field was finished on Friday with a yield score of 1.75, well below the prior expectation for 3.25. The actual yield was about 11% below the recent average for this field. The producer thinks that the early problems with moisture and the dry finish to the crop hurt it more than predicted. The higher plant population due to the mixing of original and replanted corn also likely had a negative impact.

The subject soybeans were harvested Oct. 1 with a final score of 2.5. Overall, the producer’s soybean harvest was 12 bushels off last year’s result. Harvest progressed rapidly in the area last week, and about 75% of soybean and 30% of corn fields are completed. Results are mixed, but the yields lean more disappointing than friendly.

CENTRAL INDIANA

The soybeans were harvested on Oct. 13 with a score of 3.25, and the corn was completed Oct. 2 with a final yield of 3. Soybean harvest progressed to about 40% complete as of Sunday, and the results so far are mixed, though the yields might lean a little friendlier than not. The producer believes the crops benefitted greatly by favorable weather in August.

CENTRAL OHIO

The corn was harvested on Thursday with a surprisingly high result of 5, above the expectation for 4. Actual yield was about 25% higher than the recent average for the field. The producer says that drainage tiling made the difference, and that too much moisture early on hurt local fields without tile.

The area is about 70% complete with soybean harvest and the corn is around 45% done. So far, the soybeans are coming off a little better relative to corn. The Crop Watch soybean field was harvested on Oct. 3 and yield also ended at 5.

The opinions expressed here are those of the author, a market analyst for Reuters. 

Field photos and more information on Crop Watch 2019 can be found on Twitter using the hashtag #CropWatch19 or by following the handle @kannbwx.

The following are the states and counties of the Crop Watch corn and soybean fields: Griggs, North Dakota; Freeborn, Minnesota; Burt, Nebraska; Rice, Kansas; Cedar, Iowa; Crawford, Illinois; Boone, Indiana; Fairfield, Ohio.

Editing by Matthew Lewis

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