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Painfully Slow Crop Progress

Only 17% of corn is silking, compared with a five-year average of 42% in the 18 top states, USDA reports. Likewise, 22% of soybeans are blooming, against a 49% average. The states we serve are among those lagging well behind average.

 

Corn

Soybeans

 

July 14

Average

July 14

Average

Iowa

8

40

26

52

Kansas

36

56

15

35

Nebraska

11

42

28

54

South Dakota

0

21

32

50

18 States

17

42

22

49

 

Condition is virtually unchanged in the 18 states, with corn and soybeans each improving 1 percentage point on the upper end, to 58% and 54% good/excellent, respectively. No change was seen on the bottom end, with both corn and soybeans at 12% poor/very poor.

Grain sorghum is not as far behind, with 24% headed and 14% coloring in the six reported states. This compares with 31% and 19% averages. Almost three quarters of the crop is rated good/excellent and only 3% poor/very poor.

Spring wheat is 9 points behind average in heading, at 78%. Its condition is rated good/excellent on 76% of the acres (down from 78% a week earlier) and just 4% poor.

Winter wheat harvest in the 18 reported states also is still running late, with just 57% cut compared with 71% on average.

 

July 14

Average

Kansas

81

95

Nebraska

14

52

South Dakota

0

21

18 States

57

71

 

Early end to season?

Naturally, the late start to the spring crop season has raised concerns about whether there will be enough time for crops to mature. Feeding that concern are forecasts by several weather companies that a normal frost date could be the best-case scenario; early frost is a distinct possibility. That would be especially bad for the tardy crops in the northern reaches of the Corn Belt.

For instance, Drew Lerner, founder of World Weather Inc., said: “I do not see this growing season being extended, especially in the northern parts of the Midwest. The odds are really high that we’re going to end up with the northern areas finishing out early.” He bases that observation on a repeating sunspot cycle: In 1965 and 1983 saw early frosts and were tied to solar minimums, which we are approaching again. “Further research also reflects that anytime the solar minimums are at play and we have a slight cooler bias [which he predicts for this summer, despite current heat], we tend to verify with early frost or freezes.” Click to view full forecast on agweb.com.

In the same article, Farm Journal agronomist Ken Ferrie noted that an early frost/freeze can take 30-40 bu./acre off corn yield in some areas.

This worry is keeping December corn futures above $4.20/bu. and November beans above $8.90 – despite 2018/19 corn exports 11% below a year earlier at the same time into the marketing year. In its July supply/demand report, USDA reduced its projected exports for the third time, to 56 mmt, compared with 62 mmt in April. Yet exports are still running below the average weekly pace needed to reach USDA’s projection.

Meanwhile, because of logistics snarled by historic flooding, soybean exporters are struggling to deliver some 7 mmt of beans purchased by China before trade talks broke down last month. Shipments to all locations reached 38.5 million metric tons by July 4, compared with 50.3 mmt a year earlier. Outstanding sales, on the other hand, were 10 mmt, up from 7.2 mmt last year.

Beans not moved this summer could leave bins too full and clog delivery channels this fall for those lucky enough to have good crops. The challenging 2019 season hasn’t yet outlived that adjective.

Rows of young green corn plants. Corn seedling on the field.

Knee High by Fourth of July? Some Fields Yet to Sprout

USDA reports 94% of the corn has emerged in the 18 reported states, 6 percentage points behind average. Iowa stands at 98%, Kansas 97%, Nebraska 99% and South Dakota 96%. Condition ratings in the 18 states and in the states we follow have not changed more than 2 points from the prior week.

Soybeans continue to be modestly behind average, with 92% planted against a 99% average in the 18 states. Iowa is 97% complete, Kansas 91%, Nebraska 98% and South Dakota 97%. It is true some acres may have shifted to prevent plant, moving a farmer’s report of planted higher (if you call it quits, you are 100% done), but the improved field work days last week likely reduced that impact compared with the week earlier.

Emergence is further behind for soybeans. Iowa is at 90% for 9 points behind average; Kansas, at 82%, is 6 behind; Nebraska, 96%, 2 behind; and South Dakota 82%, 17 behind.

As is the case with corn, soybean condition has not changed more than 2 points from last week.

Prevent Plant

Prevented planting acres have been as high as 10 million in the past, and Bill Northey, USDA’s undersecretary for farm production and conservation, said claims this year could easily exceed that level as a result of excess moisture and flooding.

As of July 1, the Risk Management Agency (RMA) has paid roughly $151 million in prevent-plant claims, with most claims coming from the upper Midwest and along the Mississippi River.

“We expect that to certainly pass the $1 billion mark if you look at the acres in the prevent-plant area,” Northey said. RMA expects that by the end of July it will better understand claim amounts for the 2019 growing season.

USDA is encouraging farmers to plant cover crops on prevent-plant acres, which would then be eligible for a minimal payment under the next round of the Market Facilitation Program, the Trump administration’s trade assistance package for farmers.

Farmers who want to grow cover crops also are eligible for cost-share assistance from the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) operated by the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Certain states, including Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota, have started special signups for farmers who could not get into their fields this spring. Deadlines vary by state and producers need to visit with their local NRCS office.

For this year only, USDA is allowing cover crops on prevent-plant acres to be chopped for silage, harvested as hay or grazed as soon as Sept. 1. The normal date is Nov. 1. Cover crops still cannot be harvested for seed or grain.

Winter wheat

Winter wheat harvest has progressed to 30% in the 18 reporting states, but that is still 18 points behind average. Kansas is only 28% complete, compared with 61% average, and Nebraska has not yet started (8% is average). South Dakota, at zero, is 2 points behind.

Heading reached 100% in Kansas, 98% in Nebraska and 93% in South Dakota.

In the 18 states, condition is 63% good/excellent, up 2 points from last week and only 37% last year; 10% poor/very poor, 1 point less than last week and compared with 34% last year. Condition is 55% good/excellent and 16% poor/very poor in Kansas, while Nebraska is rated 73% good/excellent and 6% poor/very poor. South Dakota has 62% in the top categories and just 5% in the bottom two.

Both hard red winter and soft red winter wheat prices are down by double digits at the close July 1. Shown is the chart for September hard red winter futures.

wheat futures july 2019

young soybean plant

Slightly Lower Condition Ratings Take Center Stage

With corn planting nearing completion at 96% for the week ending June 23, attention turns to condition.

Emergence is behind average by 10 percentage points at 89% in the 18 reporting states. In Iowa, emergence lags by 4 points; Nebraska, 5; Kansas, 6; and South Dakota, 20 points with only 79% of the crop emerging.

In the 18 states, the corn crop is rated 56% good/excellent and 12% poor/very poor this week, compared with 77% in the top categories and 5% in the bottom two last year. This also is down several points from the week earlier, and the market took note, bumping corn futures more than 4¢ higher through the December contract.

 

Corn

Soybeans

 

Good/excellent

Poor/very poor

Good/excellent

Poor/very poor

Iowa

62

8

63

5

Kansas

50

13

43

13

Nebraska

77

4

75

3

South Dakota

56

6

55

5

 

Soybean planting – with its generally later final dates and late-planting period – still lags with just 85% planted compared with a five-year average of 97%. However, in the states we report, most are only 3 to 6 percentage points behind average. South Dakota at 84 percent planted is the exception, running 15% behind its usual pace.

Emergence in the 18 states is reported at 71%, 20 points behind average. In Iowa, 81% of the soybean crop is up (96% average); Kansas, 68% (78%); Nebraska, 85% (96%) and South Dakota, 92% (95%).

As the table above shows, soybean condition is rated fairly close to that of corn. It also has dropped a few percentage points from the prior week.

Other spring crops

Grain sorghum planting is 84% complete, according to USDA. The five-year average for this point in the planting period is 91% complete. Kansas reports the slowest pace at only 77% planted compared with 88% on average; Nebraska, at 91%, is seven points behind and South Dakota, at 92%, is one point ahead of average. Not much sorghum has headed in states outside of Texas. Condition in the states we report ranges from 67% good/excellent in Kansas to 80% in Nebraska. Only 1% to 3% is rated poor.

Sunflower planting is only a few points behind average. The four reported states reached 85% complete compared to their five-year average of 89%. Kansas is three points behind at 73; South Dakota is two points behind at 82%.

Winter wheat

Ninety-four percent of winter wheat in the 18 leading states has headed. The lowest percentage is in South Dakota, where only 80% has headed compared with an average there of 94%. Harvested acreage is less than half the average for the week ended June 23 – 15% vs. an average of 34%. What has been harvested is in the southern states. In the states we report, Kansas stands at just 5% (average 36%).

Pasture and range

Pasture and range conditions dropped 3% on the top end and increased 2% on the bottom end. But at 68% good/excellent and just 8% poor/very poor, condition is dramatically better than last year’s 49% and 20%.

corn young closeup

Planting Progress: What We Do – and Don’t – Know

Two consecutive weeks of drier weather gave producers more field days for planting progress. Iowa had 10.5 days of suitable fieldwork for the weeks ending June 9 and June 16; Kansas, 10.4; Nebraska, 10; and South Dakota, 9.3.

In the 18 states, USDA reports 92% of corn planted and 77 of soybeans planted as of June 19. By state:

State Corn planted Average Soybeans planted Average
Iowa 98 100 89 98
Kansas 96 99 74 82
Nebraska 98 100 91 98
South Dakota 78 100 70 98

 

However, be careful in interpreting these numbers, cautions David Widmar of Agricultural Economic Insights. Some farmers are switching crops during this period of delayed planting, identifying fields that can’t be planted, etc. Consider the impact of a farmer who intended to plant 100 acres of corn and 100 acres of beans, but now is switching 20 acres from corn to beans. Instead of being 80% finished, the farmer now is 100% finished with corn planting. Conversely, the 20 additional acres of soybeans might still be unplanted and not accounted for in USDA’s report on planting progress.

Widmar also cautions that USDA’s reduction in corn acreage and yields in its June 11 World Supply and Demand (WASDE) estimates can be misinterpreted as well. USDA always includes an assumption of some prevent plant acres.

“Our best estimate is a base rate of 1.6 million, plus a 3 million reduction from intended,” says Widmar. “So when you read a forecast for 5 million acres prevented, it doesn’t mean a 5 million reduction because a base number was already subtracted before the estimate in the WASDE.”

The next USDA number will be the June 28 planted acreage report, but even that will not be up to date. The survey is conducted during the first two weeks of June; decisions made in the final two weeks will be a blind spot for the report, Widmar points out.

Shift to beans?

Since soybeans have a later planting period, some analysts foresee the shift from corn to soybeans. But history doesn’t bear that out. Average prevent plant is 1.8% for corn and 1.2% for soybeans. Most often when one crop has higher prevented planting, both do. Click to view Widmar’s full report.

Other crops

Grain sorghum in the six reporting states is 69% planted, well behind the 81% that, on average, is planted by now. Kansas stands at 55% (average 71%); Nebraska 80% (94%); South Dakota 68% (84%).

Spring wheat planting is close to complete at 95% in the six states, just 2 percentage points behind average. South Dakota’s crop is 97% planted, also 2 points behind.

Winter wheat harvest is slow, with only 8% of the crop completed compared with a 20% average. The important Kansas crop is only 1% done, 11 points behind average. Nebraska and South Dakota farmers have not yet started wheat harvest, which is typical.

This week’s forecast for storms isn’t a harbinger of fast progress this week – and we are approaching the date when crops either get in the ground or go unplanted. It will take some time for the ending facts to be known.

wet fields - may 29

Weather Continues to Challenge U.S. Crops

Farmers in our region had little opportunity for field work in the week that ended May 26. USDA reports one suitable day for field work in Iowa, 2.2 in Nebraska and 1.1 in South Dakota. This was less suitable field time than in the previous week.

As rain continued, the percentages of waterlogged fields continued to rise.

 

Topsoil surplus (%)

Subsoil surplus (%)

Iowa

59

55

Nebraska

40

28

South Dakota

56

48

Wyoming

19

15

8 States

37

33

 

The map below shows soil moisture in millimeters. The second map highlights the excess compared with normal.

calculated soil moisture may 28 2019 calculated soil moisture anomaly may 28 2019

At a time when 90% of the corn crop should be planted in the 18 major states, 58% is in the ground. Only 32% has emerged compared to 69% on average at this point in the growing season. Likewise, 29% percent of soybeans were planted as of May 26, less than half the 66% average. Eleven percent of the crop has emerged; the average is 35%.

Crop progress in the states we focus on:

CORN

Percent Planted

Percent Emerged

 

May 26

Avg.

May 26

Avg.

Iowa

76

96

42

77

Kansas

70

88

49

69

Nebraska

81

94

50

73

South Dakota

25

90

2

57

18 States

58

90

32

69

SOYBEANS

Iowa

32

77

8

36

Kansas

22

41

12

22

Nebraska

56

74

23

36

South Dakota

6

64

0

24

18 States

29

66

11

35

 

Grain sorghum planting also is well behind normal, at 28% in the six states USDA reports, compared with a 44% five-year average. In Nebraska, 23% is planted vs. 50% on average. Kansas was at 4% vs. 13% on average.

Spring wheat in the six states USDA reports is 84% complete against a 91% average. South Dakota spring wheat stands are 79% planted vs. 97% on average. Forty seven percent of the crop overall has emerged (average 69%), with 43% of South Dakota’s emerged (86% average).

Winter wheat

Cooler than normal temperatures continued to contribute to slow development of winter wheat: 66% of the crop has headed, 10 percentage points behind average, USDA reports. In Nebraska, 19% has headed (50% average); South Dakota wheat is at zero percent (20% average).

Looking ahead

There is a 70% chance that El Niño will continue through the Northern Hemisphere summer, according to the Climate Prediction Center. Chances are 55% to 60% that it linger through fall. All this suggest continued wet weather.

 three month temperature june 2019

In its outlook for June, July and August, the CPC shows above normal chances of precipitation and a tendency for below normal temperatures in the Western Corn Belt/Plains. There is a better than usual chance for above normal temperatures in the East.