July 6, 2020 / 4:19 PM / a month ago

Column: Crop Watch - Corn, soy conditions hold as critical weather period begins

FORT COLLINS, Colo. (Reuters) - Temperatures were warm and rainfall was mostly spotty last week, but none of the U.S. Crop Watch growers reduced condition scores for their corn and soybean fields.

Soybeans are harvested from a field on Hodgen Farm in Roachdale, Indiana, U.S. November 8, 2019. REUTERS/Bryan Woolston

The producers are largely pleased with how their crops look at present, though many are concerned with the hot and somewhat dry weather outlook over the next several days. Most of the Crop Watch corn will be pollinating within the next two weeks, and unfavorable conditions during this critical reproductive process can have negative impacts on yield potential.

Crop Watch 2020 follows one corn and one soybean field in eight major U.S. Corn Belt states, and these are the same eight growers who participated in the 2018 and 2019 versions of Crop Watch. Weekly updates will be issued for these fields from now until harvest.

Producers have assigned condition scores to their fields using a scale of 1 to 5. The ratings are similar to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s system where 1 is very poor and 5 is excellent, but the Crop Watch scores do not make any assumptions about yield since that will be separately evaluated later.

The eight-field corn average rose to 4.25 from 4.22 last week on a slight improvement in Nebraska. Increases in North Dakota, Minnesota and Nebraska boosted the soybean average to 4.06 from 3.94 last week.


The North Dakota grower increased soybean condition to 2.5 from 2 in the previous week after plentiful rains fell throughout the week. Corn condition stays at 3. Up to 5 inches (127 mm) of rain fell over the past few days but totals closer to 3 inches (76 mm) were most common. That moisture was desperately needed, but the producer now hopes for a drier stretch over the next week or so.

The reader is reminded that only 9% of the corn field and 30% of the soybean field could be planted, and that will be a consideration when evaluating yield potential. The corn will likely pollinate at the end of the month.


Corn condition remains at 4.75, though the soybean rating is moved up by a quarter-point to 4.75. The soybeans grew a lot over the past week and the plants have many flowers, which is the first step in the reproductive stage. The corn is likely to begin pollinating in about a week, and the producer is hoping for a rain by then. Topsoil has dried out and the crops will need a drink by the end of the week.


The Nebraska producer increased both condition scores by a quarter-point each, bringing corn to 4.5 and soybeans to 4.25. The crops received a little over a half-inch (13 mm) of rain about a week ago, and the rain situation will become critical again by the weekend, especially with above-normal temperatures over the next few days. The corn will begin pollination in about a week.


Condition scores in Kansas remain at 3.5, but this week’s weather may offer headwinds to those numbers. The corn has just started pollination and temperatures will approach 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) over the next several days with sparse rain chances. The area received a half-inch (13 mm) of rain last week. The producer completed his winter wheat harvest late on Sunday, and the yields came in up to 5% larger than expected.


Conditions remain at 5 for both Iowa fields. The fields received spotty showers last week and the same is expected for this week. If rain is missed, conditions may drop because of the warm temperatures. The corn is likely to start pollination later this week, and it may avoid a decline in ratings if 1 inch (25 mm) of rain and nighttime temperatures below 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celsius) are observed.


Conditions remain at 5 for both fields, which were bolstered by a good shot of rain during the last weekend in June. Tassels began popping out of the corn this weekend, and the plants will likely begin pollination at the end of this week. There is a chance of rain early in the week, but conditions could decline if no rain falls, especially given the warmer temperatures in the forecast.


The Indiana producer keeps corn condition at 4.25 and soybean condition at 3.5, noting the area has plenty of moisture for now. The corn will likely be pollinating next week, and if rain is missed over the next several days, the moisture cushion will quickly shrink with warmer temperatures in the forecast for the next few days.


Corn and soybean conditions in Ohio remain at 4 this week, even though the fields have not received rain since June 23. The corn is likely to pollinate during the third full week of July, so there is still time for moisture replenishment before the critical yield stages. However, the producer does not want to spend any more money on the crop, such as for fungicide or late-season nitrogen, until it rains again and conditions are stable.

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.

Photos of the 16 Crop Watch fields can be tracked on Twitter using the hashtag #CropWatch20.

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

Editing by Matthew Lewis

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