June 18, 2019 / 6:28 AM / 6 months ago

Column: Crop Watch - Wet soils and persistent rain weighing on corn health

FORT COLLINS, Colo. (Reuters) - The U.S. Crop Watch producers report that corn conditions are largely the same as last week, but many fields are starting to show stress from excessive moisture. Almost all areas could use both a break from the rains and some above average temperatures to get the crops growing.

A combine harvests wheat in Corn, Oklahoma, U.S., June 12, 2019. REUTERS/Nick Oxford

Unfortunately, many Corn Belt states, especially in the east, are forecast to receive between 2 and 4 inches (51 to 102 mm) of rain over the next seven days, likely to the detriment of conditions. Temperatures are pegged to be normal or slightly below for this week, though some much-needed warmer temperatures are possible for the last week of June.

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. These are the same eight growers who participated in the 2018 version of Crop Watch.

Each week, the growers assign a condition rating to their corn field between 1 and 5, with 1 representing very poor and 5 being excellent. The growers are asked to consider only the health of the corn plants in their observation field, not the date they were planted, conditions in surrounding fields, or personal assumptions about yield potential.

As of Sunday, the eight-field average condition rating was 3.66 out of 5, down from 3.78 a week earlier. Conditions declined in North Dakota and Illinois but improved in Nebraska and Iowa. The average rating on the same weekend a year ago was 4.06.

The Crop Watch condition scores do not necessarily suggest that the crop will avoid trouble down the road due to the very late planting of some of the fields. Next week the producers will begin providing weekly yield potential ratings using a similar 1-5 scale, and this is where their subjective assumptions can be factored in.

A week ago, the U.S. Department of Agriculture rated 59% of the U.S. corn crop in good or excellent condition. These ratings are taken on the portion of crop that had emerged by the time of observation, which was 62% last Sunday. That is well below the five-year emergence average of 93%.

On average, analysts estimate that 59% of the U.S. corn crop will be shown in good or excellent condition as of June 16.


The North Dakota producer reduced conditions on the observation corn field to 2.5 from 4 last week because the corn planted into wetter parts of the field is looking worse now. He also reports that corn and soybean emergence has been somewhat poor in the area due to the cold soils this spring. The variable planting conditions have led to lower plant populations in both crops. It rained between 1 and 3 inches (25 to 76 mm) in the area last week, which was helpful, but a dry, warmer stretch would be preferred now.


Conditions for the Minnesota corn field are unchanged at 4 as of Sunday. The area received just over 2 inches (51 mm) of rain this past week and the fields are super wet again. A break from the rains would be greatly welcomed, along with some warmer weather. The producer reports that crop emergence was slow and sparse last week.


The Nebraska grower increased the condition score on his corn field to 3.5 from 3 last week due to better coloring and faster growth with normal temperatures. Last week was mostly dry in the area, but now most fields could use half an inch (13 mm) of rain because they had been planted in such wet conditions. However, around 1.5 inches (38 mm) or more would be too much. Soybeans are about 90% planted in the area, and some producers are still planting beans.


The corn field conditions are unchanged at 4 as of Sunday. Crops in the area have recently emerged at a more rapid pace with drier stretches of weather, but storms were still prominent in the area last week and the grower says about 10 to 12 days of dry weather would be preferred. Warmth is also greatly needed.

Soybean planting is about 75% complete in the area and sorghum planting is about halfway complete. Any soybean fields that are not planted by June 25 will likely switch to sorghum. The producer reports that area growers are much more optimistic about the conditions on soybeans and sorghum than on corn.


A lot of planting got done in the area last week, including a good amount of replant for corn. Soybeans are probably 90% planted in the area, and most of corn has emerged. The Crop Watch field conditions rose to 4.5 from 4 a week earlier. General corn conditions in the area are probably closer to 3.5 since most fields were planted later than the observation field. The crops really need some heat now to stimulate growth.


Conditions for the corn field were lowered to 3 from 3.5 a week earlier since excessive moisture has led to nitrogen loss and many of the plants are uneven. This is a general theme in the area for corn, but soybeans generally look in better condition. Crops that emerged in the latest week mostly look better than earlier emerged fields at this point. The producer is concerned about the high rainfall amounts forecast for this week as there is already a lot of standing water and fertilizer will continue to be lost if the forecast verifies.


Conditions for the Indiana corn field remain at 3. Planting progress in the area advanced last week to around 75% from 60% a week earlier on corn, and soybean planting is around 60% complete versus 40% a week earlier. Recent rains and forecast rains likely mean that corn planting is done in the area. Emerged corn is increasingly showing signs of moisture stress after being planted into too-wet conditions.

The soybeans in Indiana were the last of the 16 Crop Watch fields to be planted, on June 14.


The Ohio producer left his corn rating unchanged at 4.75. However, he reports that the soils are completely saturated and cannot take on any more water. Plant populations are declining with additional moisture, slowly reducing yield potential. Crop emergence was slow in the area last week with the lack of heat. Northern Ohio continued to struggle with excessive moisture last week, and very little planting progress was likely made.

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.

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

Editing by Matthew Lewis

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