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Column: Crop Watch - Dryness continues to hurt yields, especially for soy

FORT COLLINS, Colo. (Reuters) - Yield expectations for the U.S. Crop Watch corn and soybeans slid for the fifth consecutive week as dry weather continued its dominance. Cool, wet weather will prevail for some of the dry western areas this week, and although the rains are too late to undo previous damage, they may help stabilize parched crops.

Soybean plants around 45-days before harvest are seen on a farm near Norborne, Missouri, U.S., August 28, 2018. REUTERS/Dave Kaup

The Minnesota grower is the only Crop Watch producer that has not reduced soybean yield expectations within the last month. He has not cut corn yield within that time frame either, and the same is true for the farmers in Kansas and Indiana.

Crop Watch 2020 follows one corn and one soybean field in eight major U.S. Corn Belt states, and it is the third year following the same eight locations. Weekly updates will continue through harvest.

The producers rate yield potential each week on a scale from 1 to 5. Scores of 1 or 5 represent yields close to or exceeding 15% below or above average, while 2 and 4 are assigned to yields around 5% to 10% from the average.

The unweighted, eight-field average corn yield fell to 3.63 from 3.69 a week earlier on slight reductions in Iowa and Illinois. Soybean yield fell to 3.5 from 3.63 after declines in Illinois, Nebraska and Indiana.


The Iowa producer clipped a quarter-point off corn yield potential – now at 2.25 – after discovering an enormous difference in kernel size between damaged and undamaged plants from last month’s derecho. Ears on broken plants stopped filling after the storm, though the producer is still unsure how widespread this problem is. About 1.5 inches (38 mm) of rain fell on Sunday morning, which held soybean yield at 4.

Nebraska corn yield was unchanged at 3.25 but the grower reduced soybean yield by a quarter-point to 2.75. There was no rain last week and the beans are starting to mature. Up to 1.5 inches of rain are forecast through midweek, which would be the most rain in more than two months. That will not help the corn but might marginally aid some of the soybeans.

It was another dry week in North Dakota, but yield expectations stay at 2 for both. Crops in the area are well ahead of last year’s pace, though this week’s cool weather will slow things down. North Dakota is the only Crop Watch location monitoring the frost risk for Tuesday night into Wednesday, and that would be more damaging for beans than corn right now due to the maturity of the latter.

The Minnesota grower keeps soybean yield at 5 and corn at 4.5. Weather was ideal last week, though cooler conditions this week will cause the maturation process to stall. However, the cloudy weather should prevent frost, which would damage crops at this point.

Corn and soybean yield potential in Kansas hold at 4 and 3.5, respectively. Cool and wet weather this week could help finish out the soybeans, though corn harvest has already begun. The producer has collected 5% of his corn crop, and yields are above average so far, as expected.


The Illinois producer cut soybean yield a half-point to 4.5 and corn yield came down a quarter-point to 4.75. There has been no rain for three weeks, and the soybean plants will not fill out the pods as well as expected. Some of the top clusters have dried up and died. The corn still has a chance for excellent yields, though the dry finish has not been ideal.

Indiana corn yield stays at 4.75 but soybean potential was reduced a quarter-point to 3.25 due to the dryness. The soybeans were replanted in late May, meaning moisture could still help at this point, though the forecast is mostly dry. Harvest on the earliest-planted corn will start next week.

Corn yield stays at 3.5 and soybeans at 3 in Ohio. There were only light showers over the fields last week, though the northern half of the state received up to 4 inches on Monday. Harvest is about a month away.

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.

Photos of the 16 Crop Watch fields can be tracked on Twitter using the hashtag #CropWatch20.

The opinions expressed here are those of the author, a market analyst for Reuters.

Editing by Matthew Lewis