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Column: Crop Watch - Producers expect above-average corn, soy yields after timely rains

FORT COLLINS, Colo. (Reuters) - Unusually warm temperatures prevailed across U.S. corn and soybean growing areas last week, though late-week rains supported field conditions for the Crop Watch farmers, who expect above-average yields at this point.

Soybeans are harvested from a field on Hodgen Farm in Roachdale, Indiana, U.S. November 8, 2019. REUTERS/Bryan Woolston

Most of the U.S. Corn Belt can expect a break from the heat this week along with periodic showers and storms. That is much improved from earlier forecasts that called for the persistence of the hot and dry weather, and it is good news for the Crop Watch corn fields, many of which are pollinating this week.

Crop Watch 2020 follows one corn and one soybean field in eight major U.S. Corn Belt states, and these are the same eight growers who participated in the 2018 and 2019 versions of Crop Watch. Weekly updates will be issued for these fields through harvest.

Producers have assigned condition scores to their fields using a scale of 1 to 5. The ratings are similar to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s system where 1 is very poor and 5 is excellent, but the Crop Watch condition scores do not incorporate yield assumptions.

The eight-field corn condition average fell to 4.09 from 4.25 last week on reductions in Iowa and Nebraska. The soybean average jumped to 4.16 from 4.06 after improvements in North Dakota and Indiana.

The growers this week offered their initial expectations for yield potential, also rated on a 1-to-5 scale. 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. An average yield or one within a couple percentage points would score a 3.

The producers’ actual yields are not reported because it would encourage comparisons with state-level yield data, which is faulty due to the small sample. All eight producers operate in highly productive regions with farm yields comfortably above those of their states.

The unweighted, eight-field yield averages for both crops are 4.03. All the corn fields rank between 4 and 4.5, except for the ones in North Dakota and Kansas. Those two states along with Indiana are the only ones that scored below a 4 for soybean yield.

That corn yield score is better than the final ones from the previous two editions of Crop Watch, and the soybeans are better than last year but similar to the final 2018 result.


The North Dakota grower increased soybean condition to 3 from 2.5 in the previous week following plenty of rain and heat. Corn condition stays at 3. More than 5 inches (127 mm) of rain have fallen over the last two weeks, boosting crop conditions but also making the fields very wet again.

The producer pegs corn yield at 2.5 and soybeans at 3. Only 9% of the corn field and 30% of the soybean field could be planted, and that is not directly factored in to those yield scores but will be noted going forward. Yield is based only off harvested acres, so if one were applying weightings to the Crop Watch yields, North Dakota would have a much smaller contribution.


Both corn and soybean conditions remain at 4.75. Crops were a bit stressed from heat and dryness earlier last week, but a total of 2 inches (51 mm) of rain fell late in the week. The fields also withstood strong windstorms on Saturday. The corn will begin pollinating later this week, and the producer rates both corn and soybean yield potential at 4.5.


The Nebraska producer left soybean condition at 4.25 but reduced corn condition a quarter-point to 4.25 after only 0.3 inch (7.6 mm) of rain fell last week. The corn will be pollinating toward the end of this week, and the crops will need rain over the next several days in order to hold the current yield potential. The grower scores yield at 4.25 apiece.


Condition scores in Kansas hold at 3.5 despite the weather, which was hot and was forecast to be dry. The Crop Watch fields were lucky to receive 1.8 inches (46 mm) of rain and avoid deterioration of conditions. The high humidity was also helpful. Corn is now pollinating, and the week ahead also looks hot and dry. Yield potential is at 3.5 for both crops.


The Iowa grower reduced corn condition to 4 from 5 in the prior week because of hail and windstorms that damaged parts of the field on Saturday. The field can recover, but yield could be negatively impacted if the plant recovery occurs at the same time as pollination, which should begin very soon. The producer rates the corn yield potential at 4. The soybeans took some hail and wind, but condition remains at 5 and yield potential is also 5.


Conditions remain at 5 for both fields after nearly an inch (25 mm) of rain fell over the weekend, very timely for the pollinating corn. The crops were showing signs of stress during the week in the heat and dryness, which would have certainly reduced conditions without the rain. The producer pegs yield at 4.5 for both crops since more rain will be needed to realize full potential.


The Indiana producer keeps corn condition at 4.25 but increases soybean condition to 3.75 after an inch of rain fell on Saturday. The corn will be pollinating this week, and the yield potential is 4.5. The soybeans were replanted in late May, and the yield outlook is a bit lower than corn at 3.5.


Corn and soybean conditions in Ohio remain at 4 this week. The fields received 1.3 inches (33 mm) of rain last week, which was very helpful after a long hot and dry stretch. Corn should put out tassels next week, and even though it was planted later than most fields in the state, the producer rates corn yield potential at 4.5. Soybean yield is at 4 since the crop is a bit behind schedule but has made good progress over the last couple weeks.

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