September 10, 2019 / 9:37 AM / 9 days ago

Column: Crop Watch - Yield hopes steady as growers welcome warmer weather

FORT COLLINS, Colo. (Reuters) - The U.S. Crop Watch producers have reported slower-than-normal development in their corn and soybeans all season because of late planting and cooler temperatures, but the warmer weather expected across the Corn Belt for the next two weeks is exactly what the crops need to help push them toward the finish line.

A crop scout walks through a soybean field to check on crops during the Pro Farmer 2019 Midwest Crop Tour, in Allen County, Indiana, U.S., August 19, 2019. REUTERS/P.J. Huffstutter

The mid-May planted soybeans have started to make the turn toward maturity, but the later-planted ones have not, meaning there is still a decent amount of time for rains to make a difference for the filling of pods. All eight soybean fields still have potential to fill and/or fatten the pods.

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 yield increased to 3.25 from 3.22 in the previous week as an increase in North Dakota offset a minor reduction in Illinois. Soybean yield is maintained at 3.28 as none of the producers adjusted expectations.

Corn condition fell to 3.41 from 3.44 last week as the plants have begun to move toward maturity in Minnesota. Soybean condition is up to 3.72 from 3.69 as a boost in Kansas offset a slight drop in Minnesota.

The regular monitoring of crop conditions will be discontinued for the rest of the season since the plants are now moving closer toward maturity and harvest. Conditions become less useful when the plants start to lose their green color and slowly turn brown as the crops finish out. Yield expectations will now be the primary focus.

EAST CENTRAL NORTH DAKOTA

The North Dakota producer increased corn yield to 2.5 from 2 on hope that the upcoming stretch of warm weather could help finish off the crop. He left all other scores unchanged: corn condition and soybean yield at 2.5 and soybean condition at 3. The corn optimism hinges on the first frost holding off until the corn reaches maturity, which would likely be well into October. The producer’s biggest fear right now is that test weight in the corn might be light after the cool and wet summer. Lighter test weights will hurt a farmer’s potential profits at sale.

SOUTHERN MINNESOTA

The Minnesota grower left yield ratings unchanged at 3.75 for corn and 4 for soybeans. He reduced conditions by 0.25 each since the crops are progressing toward maturity, bringing corn to 4 and soybeans to 4.5. The last two weeks have been mostly dry, but some showers on Sunday helped for the plants still filling pods and ears. However, the latest stretch of dryness will not allow for most of the small pods to fill. The farmer expects to harvest the beans in exactly a month.

NORTHEAST NEBRASKA

The Nebraska scores were unchanged this week with corn condition and yield at 4, soybean condition at 4.5, and soybean yield at 3.5. The last two weeks have been mostly dry, and the producer ran his pivots on his beans this past week. Aside from some more rain, the crops still need some more sunshine as it has recently been cloudy. The corn should be about 10 days away from black layer, the final stage of maturity, and the early planted beans in the area are beginning to turn.

CENTRAL KANSAS

The Kansas grower increased soybean condition to 3.5 from 3 last week. He kept soybean yield at 3.5 and left both corn scores at 2.5. Last week’s heat and humidity were great for filling pods and helping the smaller pods establish and fill. This week’s warm temperatures and mild rain chances will help the beans move toward the finish line. The corn is black layered and drying down and is probably about 20 days from harvest. Some early corn in the area is being harvested and yield reports are below average so far.

EAST CENTRAL IOWA

No changes were made in Iowa this week as corn condition, corn yield, and soybean condition stay at 4, with soybean yield at 3.5. The soybeans are starting to turn, but harvest will likely wait until later in October. The beans have plenty of moisture to help fatten the pods and more rains forecast this week will be beneficial. The corn was planted April 21 but has not yet reached black layer, and it will not be harvested until next month.

SOUTHEAST ILLINOIS

The Illinois grower reduced corn yield to 3.25 from 3.5 because of too many inconsistencies in the field as he inspects it each week, such as lighter kernel depth and smaller ears. This is still well above the initial expectation of 1. The other scores were unchanged: corn condition 4, soybean condition 3.75, and soybean yield 3.5. The soybeans have begun to shut down and turn toward maturity. Both fields were planted May 18.

CENTRAL INDIANA

The Indiana producer left all ratings the same: corn condition and yield at 2.25 and soybean condition and yield at 3. The crops continue to move slowly toward maturity due to the cooler temperatures, and the producer thinks crops in the area will have to wait until October for harvest to begin. Warmer temperatures are on the way in the next several days and this will be helpful. The subject corn field has reached black layer and may be harvested in early October, but the beans will not be ready until later next month.

CENTRAL OHIO

The Ohio scores are unchanged this week with corn yield at 3.75, corn condition at 4, soybean condition at 3.5 and soybean yield at 2.75. The corn has reached black layer, but the soybeans need some rain to fill the pods near the top of the plant, and this week’s forecast is mostly dry. There is still some time for the soybeans though as they have not started to turn toward maturity. April-planted corn in the area is starting to be harvested and the yield results have been good thus far.

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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