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Column: Crop Watch - Corn, soy yield hopes improve on widespread rain

FORT COLLINS, Colo. (Reuters) - U.S. Crop Watch producers collectively raised their yield expectations for both corn and soybeans this week after most of the locations received much-needed rain. However, those increases were tempered by reductions in both condition and yield in the Eastern Corn Belt as crops there need moisture.

FILE PHOTO: Farmer Dave Walton holds soybeans in Wilton, Iowa, U.S. May 22, 2019. REUTERS/Kia Johnson

Temperatures have generally been very mild and favorable for the crops this summer, but several Crop Watch growers report that slightly above average temperatures would be preferred going forward as the crop lags in maturity.

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 increased to 3.38 from 3.28 in the previous week with improvements in Nebraska and Illinois offsetting minor losses in Indiana and Ohio. Corn yield potential jumped to 3 from 2.91 with increases in Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, and Nebraska outweighing reductions in Indiana and Ohio.

Soybean condition improved slightly to 3.59 from 3.56 in the prior week as declines in Ohio and Indiana were offset by increases in Minnesota, Nebraska, and Illinois. Soybean yield potential increased to 3.16 from 3.09. Yield scores rose in Iowa, Illinois, and Minnesota but fell in Indiana and Ohio.

A week ago, the U.S. Department of Agriculture pegged U.S. corn yield at 169.5 bushels per acre, down nearly 4% from the agency’s long-term trend yield of 176 bpa. Soybean yield is projected at 48.5 bpa, down 2% from the trend of 49.5 bpa.


The North Dakota producer left scores unchanged this week: corn condition 2.5, corn yield 2, soybean condition 3, and soybean yield 2.5. However, there may be a potential downside bias as corn pollination may not have been completely ideal, and conditions have been too wet all season. The crops got much needed rain on Monday, but it continued to rain through the week, which was not ideal. That is also making small grain harvest difficult for the area. The soybean plants have a lot of pods, but they are filling very slowly, and the producer thinks this could be linked to the late flowering.


The Minnesota grower left corn condition the same at 4.25 but increased corn yield to 3.5 from 3 last week. He also added 0.25 to each soybean score, which now stand at 4.75 for condition and 4 for yield. The fields got 1.1 inches (28 mm) of rain in the past week, which helped boost the ratings. Minnesota was the only Crop Watch location where both fields were planted in the desired timeframe, but the producer would still like warmer temperatures to help push the crop along.


The Nebraska grower increased corn condition to 4 from 3, corn yield to 3.5 from 3, and soybean condition to 4 from 3.5. He left soybean yield unchanged at 3.5. Rain was needed desperately in the area after several sparse weeks, and the Crop Watch fields received 1.4 inches (36 mm) last week. The rain and favorable temperatures contributed to the increase in conditions and corn yield potential.


All scores remain the same as last week: soybean condition and yield at 3 and corn condition and yield at 2.5. At this point, the producer feels the corn is basically done setting its yield, but there is still time for the soybeans. The fields received 1.3 inches (33 mm) of rain last week, and if the moisture continues, yield potential on soybeans could increase.


The Iowa producer increased both yield scores: corn to 4 from 3.75 and soybeans to 3.5 from 3. Conditions were unchanged at 3.75 for corn and 4 for soybeans. Rough calculations from random samples in the soybean fields suggest that pod counts could be down at least 25% from last year, but last year’s yield was exceptional. Corn yield potential is above average, but the crop is more uneven than usual which reduces expectations. The Iowa corn was the first Crop Watch field planted this year on April 21, one of the earliest planted in the state.


The Illinois grower raised all ratings by 0.25 this week, bringing corn condition to 4, corn yield to 2.75, soybean condition to 3.75, and soybean yield to 3.25. As of early July, the producer had rated his corn yield at 1 following extremely difficult planting conditions and too much rain immediately afterward. But mostly favorable temperatures and just enough rainfall have boosted expectations close to average. A little more heat would be preferable to help push the crops toward maturity, but otherwise the weather has been largely ideal.


The Indiana grower reduced all four ratings by 0.25 this week, bringing both corn scores to 2.25 and both soybean scores to 2.75. The number of kernels on the corn ears are somewhat disappointing and the soybeans are starting to abort flowers. The Indiana fields need moisture after only picking up 0.4 inch (10 mm) of rain in the most recent event. There is a chance of storms early this week, and crops could benefit if notable precipitation is realized.


The Ohio grower reduced all four scores this week, bringing corn condition to 3.75 from 4, corn yield to 3.5 from 4, soybean condition to 3.5 from 4, and soybean yield to 2.75 from 3. Temperatures have been too warm and have offset the 0.5 inch (13 mm) of rain in the latest week, causing some of the pods and flowers on the upper part of the soybean plants to perish. The corn ears have also lost some kernels at the top. Expected rains mid-week, if realized, would benefit the Ohio fields.

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 Daniel Wallis