Row crop yield potential improving further

By Ray Grabanski
Special to the Farm Forum

08/29/17 — The corn and soybean crop in the U.S. continues to improve, with Pro Ag yield models rising to the highest levels of the year yesterday, 8/28. Both are now above ‘trend’ yields, and both have made significant improvements in the past few weeks as weather moderated in July, and that has continued in August to improve the yield potential of both crops.

Of course, USDA hiked soybean yields significantly over ‘trend’ in the August report, so we still have a ways to go to get as high as the August USDA yield projection for soybeans. But at the rate of improvement this week (0.5 bu/acre), it may not take too long to get there.

Crop conditions out yesterday afternoon (8/28) indicated another improvement in soybean crop conditions of 1% to 61% rated G/E, with corn unchanged at 62% G/E. However, the yield models for both crops went up, soybeans more aggressively, with a 0.51 hike to 47.4 bu/acre, the highest of the year and now above “trend” yields of 47.12. USDA is considerably higher at 49.4 bu/acre, but with large hikes like this week it is possible to meet or exceed the USDA number.

Corn yield was up 0.9 bu/acre to 171.8 bu, with advances the past 6 weeks of about 4.2 bu/acre. That is going to apply some pressure to corn prices, as it did in overnight trade. Corn progress is slightly behind normal, with dough at 86% (1% below normal), dent at 44% (7% behind normal), and 6% mature (4% behind normal). Soybeans are slightly ahead of normal, with 93% setting pods (1% ahead of normal), and 6% dropping leaves (also 1% ahead of normal).

Cotton conditions were up 2% to 65% G/E, but with the damage in Texas from the heavy rains were sharply higher yesterday. Sorghum conditions dropped 1% to 65% rated G/E, still a high number and equal to last year’s great crop rating. Sorghum is mostly behind normal development except heading (which is 1% ahead of normal at 91%), with coloring at 49% (5% behind normal), mature rated at 29% (2% behind normal), and harvested at 21% (1% behind normal).

HRS wheat is 76% harvested, 10% ahead of normal but the northeast areas of North Dakota/Minnesota are struggling with a wet harvest. Oats harvest is 86% complete, 4% behind normal while barley harvest is 83%, 10% ahead of normal.

Soil moisture levels are mostly holding, with topsoil at 62% rated adequate/surplus (down 1% from last week), and down from last year’s 75% rating. Subsoil is rated 62% adequate/surplus, equal to last week but below the 74% rating last year at this time. Overall, we should have adequate moisture to help this crop reach maturity; we just need the growing degree days in northern areas to achieve it.

Weather includes continued heavy rain in eastern Texas along the Gulf Coast, and spreading into Louisiana and Alabama. Also some scattered rain is in Illinois/Ohio, and also into the east coast including Pennsylvania and the coast. The 7 day forecast calls for above normal precip in the southeast U.S., including the Delta and Kentucky/Tennessee. But the rest of the Corn Belt will enjoy below normal precip along with the western U.S. Temps will average below normal in the eastern Corn Belt and the southeast, with above normal temps in the northwest Corn Belt and the western U.S.

The 8-14 day forecast continues to call for cooler temps in the eastern Corn Belt, in fact it intensified the cold air in that region today in the forecast. So well below normal temps are now forecast to occur in the northeastern Corn Belt and even into the central Corn Belt. The northern and western Corn Belt is still forecast to have warmer temps, from normal to above normal, as well as the western U.S. Precip in this morning’s runs are leaning toward below normal all across the Corn Belt, which is slightly drier than yesterday’s weather runs.

The cold forecast in the eastern Corn Belt is concerning. For now, that just represents below normal growing degree days that will keep crop maturity well behind normal. But that is into mid-September, when cooler than normal temps doesn’t necessarily mean a frost threat. But if this cooler weather pattern continues, it delays the maturity of the crop and puts it at more of a frost threat in northern areas once late September and October approaches. So eventually, the cool weather is going to produce a frost threat in these delayed crop development areas. There is significant crop behind normal development where yields can be trimmed significantly yet (especially for corn). That could be a factor as we get towards the end of September and the beginning of October — especially if the cool weather lingers that long.