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Column: Crop Watch - Harvest conditions finally improving in North Dakota

FORT COLLINS, Colo. (Reuters) - Most of the U.S. Crop Watch growers are beginning to wind down their harvests, though colder temperatures are allowing activity to pick up speed in North Dakota after field work has been delayed for many weeks by extremely soggy conditions.

File photo: A field of soft red winter wheat about a week away from harvest is pictured in the Chicago suburb of Naperville, Illinois. REUTERS/Peter Bohan (UNITED STATES)

The subject corn field in Minnesota was finished last week, leaving just the Nebraska corn and the two North Dakota fields still awaiting harvest. All but the North Dakota corn should be completed this week.

Crop Watch 2019 has been following 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.

The producers have been evaluating yield potential weekly on a scale from 1 to 5 since June. The lowest score is well below farm average, 3 is near farm average, and 5 is well above. A score of 4, for example, would be above the recent field average by about 5% to 10%. For simplicity, the eight-state averages are not weighted in any way.

The eight-field yield average for soybeans is unchanged at 3.28, but the corn score dropped slightly to 3.25 from 3.28 after the Minnesota yield came in a hair below expectations. For comparison, the unweighted 2018 final Crop Watch yield scores were 3.94 for corn and 4.06 for soybeans.

This week, the yield results for the Crop Watch locations that completed their harvests prior to last week can be found in the accompanying table instead of the text. A table with last year’s yields is also provided for comparison.

Analysts predict that Monday afternoon’s crop progress report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture will show that national corn harvest reached 54% as of Sunday, up from 41% a week earlier. Soybean harvest is seen at 75% complete, up from 62% in the prior week.


Yield expectations for the corn and soybean fields remain at 2 and 1.5, respectively. The producer reports that last week was the busiest one so far this fall for soybean harvest in his area, as the waterlogged ground was finally cold enough to support equipment. Colder temperatures this week are also favorable for harvest, and the producer hopes to cut the subject soybeans on Tuesday. The area soybean harvest could potentially wrap this week if conditions permit.

The subject corn field could be harvested as early as two weeks from now and as late as the spring. The producer estimates about 1% of corn in the area is completed as the moisture levels are too high for harvest, some as much as 30%. Since a lot of corn was not at maturity when it froze, it might be more financially viable for some growers to wait to harvest in the spring.

The producer reports that area soybean yields are very mixed, about equally split between those who expected less and those who expected more.


Harvest was completed on the subject corn field on Wednesday, and the yield came in at 3.25, below the expectation for 3.5. Like the soybeans, which were harvested Oct. 18 with the same final score, the corn field was too wet from the start. Wet and cooler conditions from the spring through the summer reduced yield potential in these fields, along with the lack of plentiful sunshine.

The producer estimates that 95% of soybeans are harvested in the area, up from 90% a week earlier, and that corn is up to 60% complete, compared with about 20% in the prior week. Local growers are not very impressed with yields, especially in fields that are not well-drained. Green snap, the breakage of corn plants, was also more prominent than usual this year.


Expected corn yield remains at 4.25, and the field may be harvested by the end of this week. The soybeans were cut Oct. 17 with a final yield of 3.5. The producer estimates about half of the corn has been harvested in the area versus 15% a week earlier, and the beans are done versus about 85% in the prior week. The producer estimates that roughly 55% of area growers are satisfied with corn and bean yields, some 30% are disappointed, and about 15% are pleasantly surprised.


In Central Kansas, the corn and soybean harvests are nearly wrapped up, while sorghum progress has reached 75%. Corn yields were overall disappointing while soybean yields were a little better than expected, and sorghum results were very good.

Winter wheat planting is nearly complete in Central Kansas as well, and growers there planted a similar acreage of wheat as last year. The Crop Watch producer believes winter wheat acres are more likely to fall on the year in the western part of the state in favor of corn or sorghum.

In East Central Iowa, the drier, cooler weather has allowed corn harvest to progress at a respectable clip, and the Crop Watch producer is mostly pleased with his personal corn yields. The Southeast Illinois producer is not as thrilled with his yield results, as corn and soy yields were generally 10% to 20% below average.

The Illinois producer also estimates that about 80% of corn and 90% of soybeans in the area have been harvested, up from about 50% and 80% in the previous week, respectively. Progress should be good this week with a drier forecast.

The Central Indiana producer reports that up to 80% of soybeans are finished in the area, barely changed from the previous week. About 25% of the area corn is harvested, and the producer notes that the corn harvest is moving very slowly because the crops are still very wet. Yield results are still mixed, some happy some not, but no one is necessarily surprised by their results. The hope is that harvest will wrap before Thanksgiving, which is 3.5 weeks away.

In Central Ohio, about 95% of beans and 90% of corn has been harvested in the area. Bean progress was similar last week but corn had been about 75% complete. Local growers are more pleased than not with their results, though any poor yields had mostly been expected. The area received some much-needed rains mid-week, and harvest should wrap this week and fall fieldwork should continue.

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.

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

Editing by Matthew Lewis