Crop Update: Markets are in Big Crop Mode

On the heels of last week’s annual Pro Farmer Crop Tour and stable to better condition ratings, the December corn futures contract has fallen below $3.50/bu. November soybeans also are well below the levels they attained early in the growing season, but at $9.39, are actually a bit above the $9.21 seen on August 16.

Pro Farmer’s tour stressed the more-than-usual variability in crop condition and yield estimates from field to field and even within fields. But in the end, a national corn yield of 167.1 bu./acre is estimated. That’s 1.5 percent below USDA’s August estimate of 169.5 bu. and down 4.3 percent from last year’s yield of 174.6 bu.

State crop tour results:

  2017 Crop Tour USDA August Difference (percent)
Iowa 183 188.0 -3
Nebraska 180.5 183.0 -1.4
South Dakota 138 140.0 1.4
Minnesota 184 183.0 0
Illinois 181 188.0 -3.7
Indiana 171 173.0 -1
Ohio 163 171.0 -4.7


These estimates are made with corn maturity still a little behind average: Eighty-six percent is in the dough stage, compared with an 87 percent average; 44 percent denting, compared with 51 percent average and 6 percent mature versus 10 percent average.

USDA’s Crop Progress report on Monday left the 18-state ratings unchanged, with 62 percent good/excellent and 12 percent poor/very poor. The Kansas crop worsened by 2 points at both the bottom and top ends, now totaling 16 percent and 55 percent, respectively, with 15 percent of the crop mature and 58 percent dented.


Pro Farmer put the national soybean yield at 48.5 bu./acre, 2.8 percent below USDA’s August estimate of 49.4 and down 7.1 percent from 52.2 in 2016.

  2017 Crop Tour USDA August Difference (percent)
Iowa 53.5 56 -4.5
Nebraska 56.5 58 -2.6
South Dakota 40.5 41 -1.2
Minnesota 48.5 49 -1
Illinois 55.5 58 -4.3
Indiana 54.5 55 -1
Ohio 53 53 0


With 93 percent of soybeans setting pods and 6 percent dropping leaves – each 1 percentage point ahead of average – USDA reported a slight improvement in the condition of the 18-state crop. The low end lost one point and the top end of the range gained one point, putting 11 percent poor/very poor and 61 percent good/excellent.

Soybean condition in Kansas is 11 percent poor/very poor and 53 percent good/excellent, down one and two points, respectively.

Grain Sorghum

Eighty-eight percent of the sorghum crop in Kansas is headed, right on average. This compares with 98 percent of the Nebraska crop, and 91 percent of the 11 reported states. Kansas is eight points behind average at 26 percent for coloring but ahead one point for maturity at 3 percent.

Condition has slipped: Last week, 62 percent was good/excellent and this week 60 percent; the low end of the scale worsened by one point to 8 percent.

The ratings for the 11 states dropped from 66 percent to 65 percent good/excellent but held steady at 7 percent in the bottom end of the range.


Three-quarters of the spring wheat crop has been harvested, according to USDA. Its last rating – on August 20 – was 42 percent poor/very poor and 34 percent good/excellent. With weather uncertainty all but over, hard red spring wheat futures have faded from their high above $8 in July to well below $7 now.

At the same time, post-harvest hard red winter prices have collapsed. After exceeding $6 in July, the December contract has been trading in the $4.20 to $4.30 range for about a week.

U.S. wheat faces tough world competition. For instance, USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service reported on August 22 that “evidence points toward another record Russian wheat harvest.” The Russian harvest is forecast to come in at 77.5 million metric tons, surpassing last year’s record by 5 million, with yields taking out last year’s record by 8 percent. Last week, the ag minister predicted that Russia could both hit a new record and regain its position as top wheat exporter.


Overall, pasture condition and moisture levels are good, with 66 percent rated good/excellent and 11 percent poor/very poor. Topsoil moisture in Kansas is 69 percent adequate to surplus, while subsoil moisture is 69 percent in those categories.


Overall, long-range outlooks from the Climate Prediction Center offer little hope of notable improvement in the South Dakota crops. However, most of the Corn Belt has much greater than normal chances for below-average temperatures through September 11.

Precipitation appears likely to be dry into the Ohio River Valley, then neutral chances of higher or lower than normal rain as far as the Smokey and Appalachian mountains.

Three-month outlooks reflect warmer than usual temperatures for September to November and neutral precipitation outlook, except for the South, where odds favor rain and harvest of what promises to be bumper crops could run into delays.