July 30, 2019 / 6:18 AM / 5 months ago

Column: Crop Watch - Rain needed as producers remain cautious on yield hopes

FORT COLLINS, Colo. (Reuters) - Last week’s seasonably mild temperatures for the U.S. Crop Watch corn and soybean fields were favorable given the drier conditions. But more than half of the producers report that their crops need rain now, and the near-term forecasts are not necessarily generous with the moisture.

Soybeans and corn are pictured on the ground in a crib building as a trailer is filled with soybeans at a farm in Buda, Illinois, U.S., July 6, 2018. REUTERS/Daniel Acker

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 3.5 from 3.59 in the previous week after reductions in Iowa and Kansas. Soybean condition jumped to 3.53 from 3.41 on an increase in North Dakota.

The eight-field average for corn yield rose to 3.06 from 3.03 last week following upward adjustments in Illinois and Nebraska, despite a decline in Kansas. Soybean yield potential was unchanged at 3 as slight losses in Iowa and Ohio were offset by an improvement 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 35% of corn had entered the silking stage versus an average of 66%, and 40% of the soybeans were blooming compared with an average of 66%. Analysts expect that Monday afternoon’s crop conditions will be unchanged on the week.


The North Dakota fields finally got a much-needed break from the rains last week, allowing soybean condition to improve to 3 from 2. The other ratings are unchanged: corn condition at 2.5, corn yield at 2, and soybean yield at 2. The soybean field is finally fully flowering, though this is at least two weeks later than normal, and that does not usually bode well for big yields. The corn field is very close to putting on tassels, which begins the reproductive stage. An unexpected heavy rain late on Sunday was disappointing for the producer, but the forecast should be dry and mild until the end of the week.


The Minnesota grower left all ratings the same this week: corn and soybean condition both 4.25, corn yield potential 3, and soybean yield at 3.5. Pollination continues in the corn field and the soybean plants are starting to put on pods. Only 0.5 inch (13 mm) of rain fell last week and the outlook for this week looks dry, but the producer is not concerned about moisture for now. Temperatures will be seasonably cool this week, slightly cooler than is preferred.


The Nebraska grower maintained corn and soybean condition at 3.5 apiece but raised both yield ratings to 3.5 from 3 last week. The corn field is just about done pollinating, but more rain is needed as just 0.4 inch (10 mm) was recorded last week. The soybeans are in full bloom and starting to form pods on the lower part of the plant. The bug problem has also subsided for now. The next rain chances may not be until Friday, meaning the producer might turn on the pivots in his bean field midweek for the first time this year.


Soybean condition and yield were left unchanged at 3 apiece, but both corn scores were reduced to 3 from 3.5. The weather has been too dry and the hotter temperatures were not ideal for corn pollination. Soybeans are blooming but growth is still well behind normal, and the number of nodes per plant is just average for the stage. Most fields in the area received only 0.25 inch (6 mm) of rain last week and greatly need some moisture, especially with some heat mixing back in this week. The week’s forecast is dry.


The Iowa producer reduced corn condition to 4 from 4.25 and soybean yield potential to 3 from 3.25. The latter was reduced due to a lower number of pods per node and the delayed development. Corn yield and soybean condition were unchanged at 3.75 and 4, respectively. There was no measurable rain last week and the forecast for the next few days is dry, and the fields are greatly in need of rain. Later-planted crops in the area are especially hurting for moisture.


The Illinois grower raised corn yield to 2.25 from 2 but left all other ratings unchanged this week: corn condition at 3.75, soybean condition at 3.5, and soybean yield at 3. Parts of the corn field are still pollinating and the beans are growing slowly. The fields last had rain on July 21, though the producer is not concerned about moisture just yet. The week’s forecast is dry with very mild temperatures, except for some rain chances on Monday.


The Indiana grower left all four ratings unchanged at 3. The fields need some rain badly, and the best chance of that will be Monday evening as scattered storms will move across the area. If that rain is missed, the next opportunity may be a week out. Cooler temperatures this week will help combat the effects of the dryness.


The Ohio producer left corn condition, corn yield and soybean condition all unchanged at 4 but reduced soybean yield to 3 from 3.25. Growth has fallen short and the number of nodes per plant is smaller than expected. Corn made it through pollination, though some of the field pollinated during the hot spell a couple weeks ago, and this may have led to some erratic pollination. The fields need rain despite the corn receiving 14.4 inches (36.6 cm) of rain since its May 22 planting. The best chances for moisture are overnight into Tuesday, but other than that the week looks dry.

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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