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Column: Crop Watch - Wet weather slows harvest but results unaffected thus far

FORT COLLINS, Colo. (Reuters) - After two weeks of rapid harvest activity, wet and cold weather last week slowed progress across many areas of the U.S. Corn Belt, according to the Crop Watch producers. The Nebraska corn was harvested over the weekend, leaving the Ohio corn as the last field standing.

Farmer Roger Hadley harvests corn from his fields in his John Deere combine in this aerial photograph taken over Woodburn, Indiana, U.S., October 16, 2020. Picture taken with a drone October 16, 2020. REUTERS/Bing Guan

Cooler weather is expected to dominate for at least the next week, and many areas will likely have to contend with more precipitation, especially in the Eastern Belt. But that moisture, if realized, would be very welcome in the parched Southern Plains.

None of the Crop Watch growers reported disappointing yields in the latest week. The Iowa grower, who has been harvesting derecho-damaged corn this fall, said his recent fields have been the best so far when compared with expectations.

The eight Crop Watch growers have been rating 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 recent field average.

The final yield score for the Nebraska corn was 3.75, a bit better than the 3.5 expected prior to harvest. That bumped the unweighted, eight-field average to 3.59 from 3.56. The Ohio producer predicts a 4 on his corn field.

The final soybean yield average was 3.66, better than in 2019 but not as good as in 2018.

The Nebraska grower credits good hybrid selection, good soils, good emergence and irrigation for why the corn field performed a bit better than expected. The field had no measurable rain for at least two months starting in early July, and the corn relied on irrigation perhaps more than ever.

Northeastern Nebraska faced snow-induced delays last week, but the corn harvest date of Oct. 24 was four days earlier than in 2018 and two weeks ahead of last year. The Nebraska corn scored a 4.25 on yield last year and a 4 in 2018.

Ohio has made slow harvest progress on corn this fall due to wet-weather interruptions. A week ago, the state was just 24% completed, nearly the same as in 2019 and behind the recent average of 37%.

The Ohio producer says that despite corn’s high moisture, he will probably have to resume harvest anyway and face higher drying costs because the situation could worsen if he waits too long. He also says winter wheat plantings surged across Ohio this fall because of high prices. Ohio plants soft red winter wheat.

But the Kansas grower thinks the area around him did not expand plantings of hard red winter wheat, the variety grown in that state. He has personally reduced winter wheat acres in every year over the past five years by a total of 25%. Basis for grain sorghum is very strong in Kansas, especially versus its rival corn, and producers are more likely to favor that in the spring.

The Kansas producer also reports the winter wheat looks horrible in his area because of the prolonged dry conditions. Some acres may be abandoned and up to 20% may need replanting. Moisture is finally expected this week, which will be critical for emergence and improving conditions.

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