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Column: Crop Watch - Some kinks emerge after quick start; N. Dakota ditches corn

FORT COLLINS, Colo. (Reuters) - Most of the U.S. Crop Watch farmers got an early start to corn and soybean planting this year, but cool, wet conditions have held back growth, and in Indiana, the early start to soybean planting unfortunately did not pay off.

FILE PHOTO: Raw corn is shown as it is unloaded for processing at the Lincolnway Energy plant in the town of Nevada, Iowa December 6, 2007. REUTERS/Jason Reed/File Photo

The North Dakota corn was planted on May 23, the 14th Crop Watch field sown, though only 9% of the field could be completed due to extremely wet conditions. The North Dakota soybeans and the Ohio corn are the only two fields still to be planted.

Warmer-than-normal temperatures are expected to move through most parts of the Corn Belt over the next two weeks, though at different times, but some of the farmers are frustrated because recent forecasts that had called for more heat did not pan out.

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 from now until harvest.

The producers will assign a numerical rating to their crops on a weekly basis, both for condition and yield expectations, but the ratings will not officially begin for at least another week to allow for more emergence.

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.


Although condition ratings have not officially started, the Crop Watch farmers in Iowa, Illinois and Kansas would rate both of their crops at a 5 out of 5, which is comparable to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s “excellent” category.

In Illinois, the Crop Watch fields are just about in the best-ever condition for the date, but not all is rosy there. The grower reports that up to one-third of his corn, which does not include the Crop Watch field, will likely need to be replanted since it did not emerge following heavy rains earlier this month.

Replanting has befallen the Indiana soybeans after an extremely cold snap damaged the plants in early May. It was planted on April 6, the earliest Crop Watch field to be sown, but will need to be entirely replanted early this week.

Not all the Indiana grower’s early planted soybeans fell victim to the frost, but a significant portion of his total acres will need a redo. The corn recovered well from the frost.

Dry conditions plagued the northeast Nebraska fields this spring, and the crops did not get off to a great start. Recent rains have helped, however, and the producer generally rates his crops in good, but not great, condition.

The crops in southern Minnesota are also in good condition, but like the corn and soybeans in Iowa and Nebraska, growth has been very slow since planting because of cool, wet weather.

The Ohio producer planted 80% of his Crop Watch soybeans on May 17, but rain grounded him from planting until Monday morning, when he finished the rest of the field. He hopes to plant corn later this week.

The Ohio corn was planted on May 6 in 2018 with excellent results, and it was the final corn field planted last year, on May 22, also with excellent results. The grower is not yet concerned about yield potential with what will be a later planting date.


In east central North Dakota, the final planting date outlined in crop insurance policies for corn was Monday. The Crop Watch grower reports that although field conditions improved last week with warmer, windier weather, it came too late to make a difference for corn planting.

The 290-acre Crop Watch corn field was planted on Saturday, but only 25 acres were seeded, and the grower will file an insurance claim on the rest of the field. There is no incentive to plant corn past Monday or to switch to other crops with such low prices and high uncertainty.

The Crop Watch producer planted 1,100 acres of corn in 2019 but will have only 120 acres in 2020. In addition to the subject field, he was able to get small portions of two other fields planted on Friday.

He estimates the excessive moisture problems are prominent in about eight to 10 surrounding counties, which combine to produce about 45% of North Dakota’s corn crop in a normal year. The grower predicts up to 30% or more of planned corn acres in those counties may switch to prevent plant.

Crop Watch will proceed with the 25 acres of corn as normal, evaluating yield potential on that patch against typical yields for the field. This will help to gauge growing conditions in east central North Dakota throughout the summer, but there will always be an asterisk around the acreage situation.

The final date to plant soybeans in east central North Dakota is June 10, and the current forecast is for mostly drier and warmer conditions in the next several days. The grower hopes to seed the 150-acre soybean field within the next week.

This year’s soybean field was last year’s corn field, which was harvested on March 12. The North Dakota soybeans were planted on May 29 in 2018 and June 2 in 2019. Yields were above average in 2018 but terrible in 2019.

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

Editing by Matthew Lewis