Farmer with tractor seeding

Full Speed Ahead?

Corn planting has progressed to 62 percent in the 18 reported states, just one point behind average. Most of the states in our service have nearly caught up – or even surpassed – average planting progress, with Iowa at 65 percent, five points behind average; Kansas at 68 percent, five points ahead of average; and Nebraska at 72 percent, two points ahead of average. South Dakota, however, still lags at only 12 percent complete — or 40 points behind average.

Soybeans are nine points ahead of average for the 18 states, at 35 percent complete. Iowa, at 33 percent, is five points ahead; Kansas, at 31 percent is 18 points ahead; Nebraska stands at 41 percent complete, 12 points ahead. Again, South Dakota is well behind its normal pace of 22 percent, with only 4 percent complete.

Emergence for both corn and soybeans follows much the same pattern. Grain sorghum in Kansas is right on average, at 3 percent, while Nebraska farmers have seeded 17 percent against a 14 percent average.

Kansas has continued to miss rain events, the result of which is winter wheat rated at 51 percent poor/very poor and just 15 percent good/excellent. Forty-two percent has emerged compared with 62 percent on average. In Nebraska, by comparison, winter wheat is 64 percent good/very good and 7 percent poor/very poor. Only 1 percent has emerged, compared with a 15 percent average.

Neutral weather?

The Crop Moisture Index from the U.S. Drought Portal (map) indicates much of the Ohio Valley has excess moisture at this time, and forecasts suggest more will fall during the next week.

crop moisture

Longer term, the La Nina that fostered the drought in the Southwest has faded and neutral sea-surface temperatures are expected to last through the summer, according to the Climate Prediction Center (CPC). As a result, seasonal forecasts from the CPC point to equal chances of above or below normal temperatures and rainfall in most of the Corn Belt during the growing season.

temperature May-October 2018

precipitation May-October 2018
It is early in the season, but at this point, based on the current conditions and long-range outlooks, the 174-bu. corn yield and 48.5-bu. soybean yield USDA used in its May 10 world supply and demand estimates certainly appear possible.

Farmer seeding crops at field

Planting: Good progress but still behind

Thirty-nine percent of the corn crop was planted as of May 6, USDA reports. The five-year average for this point in the planting season is 44 percent.

The states in our service area are among those running late: Iowa has 40 percent planted (average 48); Kansas, 47 percent (only one point behind average); Nebraska, 42 percent (46); and South Dakota 6 percent (33). Thirty-nine percent of the corn in the 18 reported states has emerged; average is 44 percent.

Soybeans, on the other hand, are slightly ahead of average — 15 percent vs. 13 percent in the 18 states. Iowa has 12 percent planted compared to the average of 11 percent; Kansas 8 percent (5); and Nebraska 16 percent (12). As with corn, South Dakota is lagging — just 1 percent of its soybeans are planted compared with an average 7 percent.

2018 trend yieldsGrain sorghum in the 11 reported states is right on its 20-percent average. Kansas has 1 percent planted, average for the state. Meanwhile, Nebraska, at 3 percent, is half its usual 6 percent at this time.

Spring wheat is 30 percent planted, compared with the usual 51 percent in the six reported states. South Dakota has 51 percent of its crop in vs. its average of 78 percent.

Winter wheat lags

Winter wheat is slow in development. Only 33 percent of the crop in 18 states has headed vs. an average of 4 percent. The Kansas crop is only 19 percent headed vs. a 41 percent average; Nebraska reports none headed vs. 3 percent on average.

USDA’s overall winter wheat condition is 37 percent poor/very poor against 34 percent good/excellent. The important Kansas crop is half in the lower categories and just 14 percent in the upper categories. South Dakota is in somewhat better shape at 11 percent poor/very poor and 30 percent good/excellent, while Nebraska is in good shape, with only 7 percent poor/very poor and 61 percent in the upper categories.

First yield estimates

This week’s USDA World Supply and Demand Estimates will provide the first official estimate for 2018 corn and bean yields. The long-term trend since 1960 was been an increase of 1.86 bu./acre/year – and we have had four consecutive years of above-trend corn yields, according to Purdue University ag economist David Widmar. For 2018, trend yield is 169.3 bu., according to Widmar.

Looking back at history since 1960, he organized departure from trend by the largest number of bushels under trend to the largest number above trend – minus 35 to plus 17 bu./acre. Notice there are more plus years than minus years (the black line between 1989 and 2000 in the table breaks years into 29 years on each side).

“Historically, yields have been above trend 60 percent of the time,” said Widmar.

He observes that 10 bu. or more above trend (180 bu. this year) have occurred eight times, or 14 percent of the time, and more than 9 bu. below trend (160 bu. this year), nine times, or 16 percent of the time. So quite a range is certainly possible in 2018.

“As you hear discussions of yields, keep in mind the average for corn is nearly 170 bu., and a range of 160 to 180 is possible,” Widmar said. “The high end of that range would be devastating to markets.”

Will We See a Repeat of 2014’s Growing Season?

As of April 23, only 5 percent of the national corn crop and virtually none of the soybean crop has been planted, according to USDA. This compares with a 2013-17 average of 14 percent and 2 percent. Locally, Kansas farmers have planted 15 percent, 9 points behind average and Nebraska, 2 percent, 7 points behind. Iowa and South Dakota have yet to launch. This is the slowest national pace since 2014. No progress has been reported for grain sorghum in our service area, which is normal. Spring wheat is really lagging its average at only 3 percent compared with 25 percent in the six reported states. South Dakota has planted only 2 percent compared with an average of 50 percent.

The 2014 season serves as an analog year for weather, said DTN Senior Meteorologist Bryce Anderson. Several key factors this year were in play then as well: Most notably a La Nina that shifted to neutral over the summer and “high-latitude blocking highs” that kept wintery temperatures in place longer into the spring.

From April 1 to 18 this year, temperatures have been as much as 20 degrees below average in Minnesota and Wisconsin and 10 degrees below average all the way south to Kansas, he noted.

The lesson from 2014 is that a slow spring does not necessarily mean reduced production. This week four years ago, corn planting was 6 percent compared with a 14 percent average. And that year turned out better than okay: The national corn yield in 2014 was a record 171 bu./acre, leading to a record 14.2 billion bushel crop. Likewise, soybeans logged a record 47.8 bu./acre and a record 3.97 billion crop.

La Niña does seem to be fading and is predicted to shift to an El Niño by fall. This points to a trend toward drier weather beginning in May and into June, he said (right map), which will allow field work to pick up steam.

april-june analogs 2018

Cooler than usual temperatures look likely in the upper Plains and Corn Belt, with close to average rainfall over much of the Corn Belt (maps below). The seasonal Outlooks from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) lean in the same direction.

june-august analogs 2018

Southern Plains

In winter wheat country, USDA reports 37 percent of the crop in poor/very poor condition, compared with 13 percent last year, and the good/excellent rating is only 31 percent compared with 54 percent last year. The Kansas wheat crop is 49 percent poor/very poor and just 14 percent good/excellent. Nebraska’s crop is rated much higher, with only 7 percent in the bottom categories and 56 percent in the top two.

The Seasonal Drought Outlook for April 19 to July 31 suggests an improvement in the Southwest – perhaps to moderate/severe ratings.

“Hardly any dryness is hinted at for the Corn Belt or the South, other than Georgia and South Carolina,” Anderson said.

NOAA season drought- April - July 2018

Yield and Price Prospects

In his forecasts for our GrowingOn meetings, Anderson said yields would be “variable.” That is still appropriate, he said, adding “trendline is possible; above-trend uncertain.” Of course, trendline yields set a fairly high bar: more than 175 bu./acre for corn and 49 bu./acre for soybeans.

Even with ample stocks in storage, early worries about planting have driven December corn futures above $4.15/bu. and November soybeans above $10.50.

As a possible price-positive wildcard, Anderson did note that dry weather is appearing in important Brazilian safrina (second-crop) corn areas and could reduce production from the hefty 88 mmt that were expected.

For more from Bryce Anderson, visit:

Crop Update: Harvest chugs slowly along

Corn harvest still hasn’t reached the three-quarters mark in the 18 states USDA reports. At 70 percent, it is 13 points behind average. Soybean harvest, however, is 90 percent complete, one point behind average.

Percent harvested Average Percent harvested Average
Iowa 67 84 92 96
Kansas 88 93 85 84
Nebraska 68 81 95 98
South Dakota 61 80 99 98

Other crops

Grain sorghum is 72 harvested, compared with 78 percent average (Kansas, 63 vs 74 average; Nebraska, 66 vs. 84 average; and South Dakota, 73 vs. 87 average).

Sunflowers, at 70 percent harvested, are two points ahead of average. South Dakota is one point behind, however, at 69 percent and Kansans have harvested only 55 percent, compared with an average of 63 percent.

Kansas farmers have moved three points ahead of average on cotton harvest, with 97 percent completed as of November 12.

Winter wheat planting

Farmers have 91 percent of planned winter wheat in the ground in the 18 reported states – right on average. Kansas is 4 points behind its 97 percent average, while Nebraska and South Dakota both are finished. Keep in mind, of course, fewer acres of winter wheat are being planted than four or five years ago.

(Mil. Acres) 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 Percent change 2013-2017
Kansas 9.5 9.6 9.2 8.5 7.6 -20
Nebraska 1.47 1.55 1.49 1.37 1.12 -24
South Dakota 1.3 1.21 1.42 1.18 .91 -30
National 43.23 42.409 39.681 36.152 32.696 -24

Only 73 percent of the Kansas crop has emerged, compared with 85 percent on average. South Dakota’s crop is well ahead of its 80 percent average, at 95 percent emerged, while Nebraska’s crop is only two points behind its 95 percent average.

USDA rates 59 percent of the Kansas crop, 62 percent of Nebraska’s and 19 percent of South Dakota’s crop good/excellent. A heavy 43 percent of South Dakota’s winter wheat is rated poor/very poor while Kansas and Nebraska are at 11 percent – equal to the 18 states.

Ripe corn field with standing water

Crop Update: Corn and soybeans continue to lag average harvested levels

Crop maturity and harvest continue to lag. In the 18 states reporting progress through October 8, corn maturity is at 82 percent, five points behind average, and 22 percent of the crop has been harvested, 15 points behind the five-year average.

In Iowa only 8 percent has been harvested, against a 28 percent average. Kansas farmers have binned only 46 percent; average is 61 percent. South Dakotans are 72 percent complete compared to an 87 percent average for this point in the season. Nebraska farmers are only 4 points behind their 87 percent average.

Eighty-nine percent of the soybean crop are dropping leaves, two points ahead of average. Harvest, however, is seven points behind average at 36 percent.

State Oct. 8 Average
Iowa 26 45
Kansas 22 21
Nebraska 23 46
South Dakota 22 59


Condition reports are little changed:

Corn Soybeans
State Percent Poor/very poor Percent Good/excellent Percent Poor/very poor Percent Good/excellent
Iowa 12 60 12 62
Kansas 15 56 19 46
Nebraska 12 64 12 62
South Dakota 25 40 19 51
18 states 11 64 12 61


While traders are focused on the lateness of the crop, farmers are perhaps more concerned about the threat of toxins that often flourish during wet harvest years. Affected grain can be heavily discounted or even rejected by buyers. For more information, view a PDF on the Iowa State University Extension website.

Grain Sorghum

Sorghum harvest is six points behind average at 35 percent complete. The Kansas crop is only 9 percent harvested compared to a 22 percent average. Nebraska is one point below its 40 percent average. And at 74 percent complete, South Dakota is four points ahead of average.

As with other crops, South Dakota a higher percentage of sorghum in the bottom of the ratings than in the top: 34 percent is poor/very poor versus 22 percent good. Kansas is rated 58 percent good/excellent and 9 percent poor/very poor while a hefty 75 percent of Nebraska’s crop is at the top end and just 5 percent is in the bottom categories.

Wheat Planting

Not surprisingly, the wet weather is holding back planting. Forty-eight percent of the winter wheat crop is in the ground, 10 points behind average. Nebraska is right on average – at 57 percent, while Kansas has only 15 percent planted compared to an average of 29 percent. A quarter of the wheat has emerged, far short of the 30 percent average.

Even though there are ample 2016 supplies on hand to satisfy short-term demand, the harvest delays could cause some issues at elevators when harvest finally does get under way. Likewise, the flow of grain via rail and barge – already impacted by weather in some cases – could see pressure, especially in those areas where bumper yields are in the field.