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Column: Crop Watch - Iowa corn, Nebraska soybeans notably worse than expected

FORT COLLINS, Colo. (Reuters) - Pre-harvest yield expectations for the Iowa corn and Nebraska soybeans were below average, but the final results on these Crop Watch fields came in well below what the producers had hoped for. Unfavorable weather, such as drought and the derecho, were mostly to blame.

Corn field is seen damaged by winds in Boone County, Iowa, U.S. August 19, 2020. Picture taken August 19, 2020. REUTERS/Karen Braun

Many of the U.S. Crop Watch growers reported relatively slow harvest progress in their areas over the past week as scattered showers, equipment breakdowns, and high moisture levels were prohibitive. But they believe the expected dry and warm week ahead will accelerate activity over the next several days, especially for soybeans.

Five Crop Watch soybean fields are left to be harvested, and it is possible all five could be completed within the next week. Five corn fields remain as well, though the Illinois producer was halfway finished with his field as of Monday morning.

The growers have been rating yield potential each week on a scale from 1 to 5. Scores of 1 or 5 represent yields close to or exceeding 15% below or above average, while 2 and 4 are assigned to yields around 5% to 10% from the recent field average.

The unweighted, eight-field average corn yield fell to 3.5 from 3.59 as an increase in Illinois was offset by a plunge in Iowa. The disappointing soybean result in Nebraska reduced average bean yield to 3.16 from 3.31.


Corn yield for the Iowa field came in 28% below the recent field average when harvest concluded mid-week. That scores a 1, much lower than the 2.25 that the producer hoped for, though he had placed a high level of uncertainty around that prediction.

The grower says that the Aug. 10 derecho accounted for about 75% of the terrible corn yield, and that the drought and specific hybrid split the other 25%. He has been farming this field for about 12 years and has never seen the outright corn yield this low, not even in the historic drought year of 2012.

Yield for the Iowa soybeans came in slightly below expectations a couple weeks ago, and the grower reports that yields in the area are still somewhat mixed. Area producers are unhappy with the corn results thus far, but harvest is still in the very early stages.

Harvest concluded on Sunday for the Crop Watch soybeans in Nebraska, and the final result was 1.5 versus the expectation of 2.75. Excellent spring soil moisture likely prevented the field from a complete disaster, though the rains shut off in early July and basically never returned. Other dryland beans in the area have had similar results.

The Illinois producer increased corn yield expectations to 5 from 4.5 after half of the field was complete. That would be the best Crop Watch Illinois corn result to date.

The North Dakota producer reports that most soybean fields are now harvested in his region, and the yields are poor in the immediate area, but results elsewhere in the state seem to be balancing out around average. The Minnesota grower has worked through some of his soybean fields, and yields are meeting the high expectations so far.

In Kansas, dryland soybeans continue to disappoint producers though irrigated fields are strong. The grower is about two-thirds finished with winter wheat planting, and rain is desperately needed for a good start. The next 10 days are expected to be very dry.

The Ohio producer reports strong results on area soybean fields that were not affected by drought, but there is some concern about the high corn moisture and avoiding an early frost. Harvest was slow last week in central Ohio as well as in central Indiana, where the grower estimates corn and bean progress at around 10% and 15%, respectively. The Crop Watch soybeans in Indiana have been slow to mature.

Crop Watch 2020 follows one corn and one soybean field in eight U.S. Corn Belt states, and weekly updates will continue through harvest. Photos of the 16 Crop Watch fields can be tracked on Twitter using the hashtag #CropWatch20.

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.

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

Editing by Matthew Lewis