July 16, 2019 / 9:44 AM / a month ago

Column: Crop Watch - Rain needed as corn begins pollination in the heat

FORT COLLINS, Colo. (Reuters) - Hot temperatures will grip the U.S. Corn Belt this week, and up to five of the eight Crop Watch corn fields may be pollinating during this time, but expected showers in the eastern areas could help minimize some of the negative effects of the warmth.

Field of ripe wheat ready for harvesting is seen in Corn, Oklahoma, U.S., June 12, 2019. REUTERS/Nick Oxford?

Later-planted soybeans continue to grow very slowly after starting in such wet conditions, but now all but one producer would like rain on both their corn and soybean fields.

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. These are the same eight growers who participated in the 2018 version of Crop Watch.

Each week, the producers assess 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 3.59 from 3.69 last week, with declines in Iowa and Indiana offsetting a minor improvement in Illinois. Corn yield potential rose to 3.09 from 3.0 based on an increase in Illinois but tempered by a reduction in Iowa.

The eight-field average for soybean condition was unchanged at 3.41 after a decline in Indiana cancelled out minor improvements in Minnesota, Nebraska and Illinois. Soybean yield potential jumped to 3.16 from 3.09 as boosts in Illinois and Nebraska outweighed a loss in Iowa.

A week ago, the U.S. Department of Agriculture rated 57% of U.S. corn and 53% of soybeans in good or excellent condition. Analysts expect that the corn score fell to 56% this week but that soybeans will remain steady at 53%.

EAST CENTRAL NORTH DAKOTA

The North Dakota producer left all ratings unchanged on the week: corn condition 3, corn yield 2, soybean condition 2.5, and soybean yield 2.5. The corn is expected to pollinate in the first or second week of August, and the beans are very small and have a long way to go. The fields are behind on heat units and are still overcoming excessive late spring and early summer rainfall. The North Dakota grower is the only one of the eight producers to say that a dry finish to July would help his crops.

SOUTHERN MINNESOTA

The Minnesota producer bumped up soybean condition to 4.25 from 4 last week but left all other ratings the same: corn condition 4.25, corn yield potential 3, and soybean yield at 3.5. The corn is about 7 feet (2.13 m) tall and is expected to start tasseling in a week. The emergence of tassels begins the important pollination period for corn. The soybeans are roughly knee-high and flowering, which is the beginning of their reproductive stage. The producer reports that the ground is dry for the first time all season after just 0.1 inch (2.5 mm) of rain last week.

NORTHEAST NEBRASKA

The Nebraska grower left corn condition and yield unchanged at 4 and 3.5, respectively, but increased soybean condition to 3 and soybean yield to 3.5, both increases of 0.5 on the week. Soybean vegetative growth has been favorable and the bug problem has been contained. Corn is tasseling now and should begin pollination in hot temperatures on Thursday, and that will last about seven to nine days. Some 60% of the soybean field is pivot-irrigated. The pivots have not been turned on yet this year, but the topsoil moisture is nearly gone.

CENTRAL KANSAS

Condition and yield scores were left unchanged for the Kansas fields: corn condition and yield at 3.5 and soybean condition and yield at 3. Corn should start tasseling by the end of this week, though there are a lot of spots in the field that never recovered from being flooded. The soybeans are very behind from overly wet and cool weather earlier in the season, and there are no flowers yet. Ideally, the producer would like up to an inch (25 mm) of rain this week to help combat the hot temperatures.

EAST CENTRAL IOWA

The Iowa producer left soybean condition unchanged at 4 but reduced all other ratings by 0.25 each: corn condition to 4.25, corn yield to 3.75, and soybean yield to 3.25. The corn scores declined due to hot and dry conditions for pollination this week. There was little to no rain last week and not much in the forecast this week, and the soils are dry. The corn tassels have emerged and the soybeans are just starting to set pods, but that process is moving very slowly. The grower reports that later-planted crops in the area are not taking well to the recent heat.

SOUTHEAST ILLINOIS

The Illinois grower increased all scores this week: corn condition to 3.75 from 3.25, corn yield to 2 from 1, soybean condition to 3.5 from 3.25, and soybean yield to 3 from 2.75. The crops received an unexpected rainfall of 1.6 inches (41 mm) last week, which was especially helpful for the corn after an extra nitrogen application. Yields should be above average in the normal parts of the field, but there is a lot of variation. Corn ranges from 3 feet to 7 feet (0.9 m to 2.1 m) in height, and the soybeans are knee-high, save one-quarter of the field that was replanted and still short. Tassels are just starting to come out on the most mature corn in the field.

CENTRAL INDIANA

The Indiana grower left both yield scores unchanged at 3, but he reduced both condition scores to 2 from 3 last week. The last 10 days have been very hot and dry and the plants are starting to show stress. The corn will be pollinating this week under very warm temperatures, but the forecasted rain, if realized, could help limit some of the damage. The producer also notes there are many unplanted fields in his area just northwest of Indianapolis.

CENTRAL OHIO

The Ohio producer left corn condition, corn yield and soybean condition all unchanged at 4 and soybean yield unchanged at 3.5. Corn tassels will probably emerge on Wednesday. Soybean growth has been very slow and the plants are just beginning to bloom. The weather was dry last week and the upcoming week will be hot, just when corn pollination begins. There is some rain in the forecast, and this would be helpful to combat the warmer weather. The producer says rain is needed through the rest of the season to finish the crops.

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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