FORT COLLINS, Colo. (Reuters) - The U.S. Crop Watch producers report that a lot of progress was made on planting last week as most areas finally got a favorable stretch of dry weather. Although much of the corn was planted a lot later than usual due to the overly wet spring, the producers say that their corn fields are in decent condition.
They also note that corn conditions in their areas are variable depending on planting date and moisture levels, and most of the producers feel their crops have been held back since planting by predominantly cool weather.
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. (tmsnrt.rs/2Waikwk)
Starting this week, the growers assigned a condition rating to their corn field between 1 and 5, with 1 representing very poor and 5 being excellent, and this will continue weekly. The growers were 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 3.78 out of 5, with a range of 3 in central Indiana and northeast Nebraska to 4.75 in central Ohio. The average rating on the same weekend a year ago was 4.
It is important to remember that the 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. In the near future, the producers will have the opportunity to provide weekly yield potential ratings using a similar 1-5 scale, and this is where their subjective assumptions can be factored in.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture will publish its first assessment of U.S. corn conditions on Monday, and these ratings will be taken only on the portion of crop that has emerged as of Sunday. As of June 2, only 46% of the U.S. corn crop had emerged, far below the five-year average of 84%.
The North Dakota producer reports that corn and soybean planting is about 90% complete in the area as of Sunday. Producers have a few more soybean fields to finish up this week but they will not plant any more corn. The Crop Watch corn field was planted on May 17, a week ahead of last year’s field, but this year’s development lags slightly. He rates his corn field a 4 but says other fields in the area probably average around 3.5.
The Minnesota grower reports that planting progress in his area was pretty good last week as most activity has wrapped up. Weather has been mostly cool since planting and that has held back plant growth in the area. He reports that emerged corn mostly looks good, but plant populations are variable depending on planting date and field conditions. The Crop Watch corn was planted May 4 and he rates it a 4 as of Sunday.
Last week, the Nebraska grower estimated around 85% of corn was planted and 50% of soybeans were planted, and he predicts as of Sunday those numbers had advanced by about 5 and 15 percentage points, respectively. The Crop Watch corn field was planted on May 14 and the producer gives a condition rating of 3 as the plants are uneven in both height and color. Some corn in the area looks worse than this based on too much rain and colder-than-normal temperatures.
Drier weather allowed for a lot of planting in the area last week. The producer estimates about 70% of beans are planted in the area, up from 30% a week earlier. The Crop Watch corn field was planted on May 15 and he rates the condition a 4. At that time, only about half of Kansas’ corn was planted, and some of that later corn does not look as good due to the heavy rains.
Conditions improved daily last week which allowed local farmers to get a lot of planting done. The Crop Watch corn field was planted on April 21, earlier than most corn in the area, and the producer rates the condition a 4. He notes that half of the area corn is also a 4, but the other half, where fields were wetter, is around a 1.5. Soybeans in the area look better, with most in OK to good condition.
The producer reports that a lot of planting occurred in the area last week, and little to no corn is likely to be planted going forward. Both Crop Watch fields were planted on May 18 versus April 29 for both last year. The grower rates corn a 3.5 as replanting has led to unevenness in parts of the field, but the corn itself is in decent condition despite being developmentally very far behind a year ago. Corn conditions are variable in the area but most of the emerged fields look OK.
The Indiana grower reports that the area finally got a good chance to plant last week, but there is still a decent chunk left. He estimates that in the immediate area just northwest of Indianapolis, about 60% of corn is planted as of Sunday versus 15% a week earlier, and soybeans are about 40% planted versus 10%. Farmers will continue to plant both this week. The Crop Watch corn field was planted on May 11 and the grower rates it a 3 since plant stands are good and the population is strong, but the moisture and cool weather have hurt. The Crop Watch soybeans have not yet been planted.
The Ohio producer reports that last week was almost completely dry in his immediate area just southeast of Columbus. He reports that planting efforts have mostly wrapped in the state south of Interstate 70, but conditions to the north are terrible and many farmers still struggle to accomplish anything. The Crop Watch corn field was planted on May 22 and the grower rates the condition a 4.75 and notes that it just needs a bit of heat and dryness to improve the condition. However, cooler weather is forecast this week.
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