CHICAGO (Reuters) - U.S. Crop Watch producers’ corn and soybean expectations were mostly unchanged on the week, though soybean potential may be better than previously expected in the northernmost states. Almost every location needed rain a week ago and many have observed some moisture over the last several days, though places like Nebraska, Kansas, and now North Dakota need precipitation to maintain crop potential.
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.
Each week, the producers evaluate crop condition and yield potential for both crops on a scale of 1 to 5. For conditions, 1 represents very poor and 5 represents excellent. For yield potential, 1 is well below farm average, 3 is near farm average, and 5 is well above. The growers are asked to evaluate each separately and to not bake in to the condition score certain yield factors such as late planting.
The eight-field average for corn condition fell to 3.28 from 3.34 in the previous week, and corn yield potential dropped to 2.91 from 2.97. The reductions were based on slight losses in Nebraska, but all other corn scores were unchanged this week.
Soybean condition fell to 3.56 from 3.59 in the prior week as a drop in Nebraska offset a slight rise in Minnesota. Soybean yield potential increased to 3.09 from 3.06, with improvements in North Dakota and Minnesota outweighing a decline in Nebraska.
A week ago, the U.S. Department of Agriculture rated 57% of U.S. corn and 54% of soybeans in good or excellent condition. Some 78% of corn had entered the silking stage versus an average of 93%, and 72% of the soybeans were blooming compared with an average of 87%.
The North Dakota producer increased soybean yield potential to 2.5 from a 2 last week, but he left all other ratings unchanged: corn condition 2.5, corn yield 2, and soybean condition 3. The weather conditions have been favorable for soybeans and they have recovered a little bit after being too wet for too long earlier in the season. Things are starting to dry out a bit more than the producer would like, and this is the first time all year that he could use more rain. Cooler than normal temperatures have not been harmful for corn, but the producer is somewhat concerned about the crop’s ability to finish.
The Minnesota grower left corn ratings the same at 4.25 for condition and 3 for yield, but he increased soybean scores by 0.25 each, resulting in 4.5 for conditions and 3.75 for yield. The soybeans have reached hip height on the producer, and he says that recent growth has made the field difficult to walk in. The plants are still forming pods. Temperatures for the week look a little cooler than ideal for the corn, but warmer weather may return in the following week. The fields got 1.1 inches (28 mm) of rain last week.
The Nebraska grower lowered all four scores by 0.5 due to the lack of rain last week. That moves both corn condition and yield to 3 and both soybean scores to 3.5. Only about 20% of soybean and 35% of corn fields are irrigated in the area, so the rain is needed very badly now since rain has been sparse in the last several weeks. Temperatures have been neutral to favorable, but the producer reports that irrigation pivots have recently been running hard in northeast and central Nebraska.
All scores remain the same as last week: soybean condition and yield at 3 and corn condition and yield at 2.5. There has been lots of rain in northern and eastern Kansas, but the central part where the Crop Watch fields are located has missed out. The hot and dry upcoming weather is also concerning. The producer is disappointed that his corn may only reach average yields at the very best this year despite all the spring moisture. Drought conditions have returned to the area per the U.S. Drought Monitor. The soybeans are blooming and are setting the first pods now.
The Iowa producer kept all scores unchanged: corn condition at 3.75, corn yield at 3.75, soybean condition at 4, and soybean yield at 3. The fields received about 1.4 inches (36 mm) of rain over the past seven days, and that moisture was critical. More rain is expected early this week. The producer is finding several pods on the soybean plants with four beans, which is a good sign for the yield. However, that is still hard to gauge at this point since there seem to be fewer pods than normal.
The Illinois grower kept ratings unchanged this week with corn condition at 3.75, corn yield at 2.5, soybean condition at 3.5, and soybean yield at 3. Temperatures have been favorable and the fields got 0.7 inch (18 mm) of rain last week, though more rain is needed. Despite the re-planting, all the corn ears have the same potential size, they are just at different maturities. The outcome will depend on weather.
The Indiana grower maintained ratings this week: both corn scores at 2.5 and both soybean scores at 3. Rain was spotty in the area last week as some fields got an inch (25 mm) while others got nothing. The mild temperatures have been a saving grace for the crops in the absence of rain. A decent soaking is expected late on Monday, which could bolster crop conditions going forward.
All scores were unchanged in Ohio this week: corn condition, corn yield and soybean condition at 4 and soybean yield at 3. The Ohio fields had 1.5 inches (38 mm) of rain last week. The producer is mostly happy with the way the crop looks as disease pressure in the fields is low. Soybeans have added more nodes and branches than he may have originally expected. The concern now is that these crops need three to four weeks of warm weather to successfully finish, and frost needs to hold off until at least Sept. 15.
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.
The opinions expressed here are those of the author, a market analyst for Reuters.
Editing by Nick Zieminski