8/14/18 — It’s rare that USDA would raise soybean yields 6 percent or more in any one report, but they did just that for soybean yields in the August 10 USDA report. In fact, about half the time, USDA doesn’t need to change the final yield number more than 5 percent up or down in the entire year. To put this in perspective, USDA did so in August with a rise that is larger than many whole years in the past. Last year, USDA got aggressive early in predicting large corn and soybean crops, only to back off the soybean numbers considerably by January’s final numbers. Could they be forced to do the same again this year?

The corn number was more believable, with a hike in yield as well as soybeans, but a much smaller percent, and with a crop advanced enough to actually make those hikes (it was reasonable to hike the corn numbers, albeit a bit early). So the corn numbers are more in line with the Pro Ag yield estimate as well as many private estimates, but the soybeans blew everyone’s estimates out of the water.

Now that the government report is out of the way, we can return to more reasonably predictable things like weather (tongue in cheek). Weather seems to be difficult for weather prognosticators to predict, too, as there has been a fairly erratic long term forecast recently. It has gone from hot/dry, to cold/wet, and now fluctuating back and forth between the two extremes. It has been a bit dry in some Corn Belt areas, resulting in crop stress (and most stress on soybeans rather than corn). The recent hot/dry weather in HRS wheat areas has been great harvesting weather, and that means harvest is going good so far.

Weather forecasts today call for warmer and wetter weather the next 7 days, and thereafter warmer and drier for days 8-14. Today’s forecast is in contrast with last night’s National Weather Service 6-10 and 8-14 day forecast which called for cool/wet weather the entire period. Not sure why these forecasts are so erratic, but maybe it just means normal weather is likely? The wet forecast the next 7 days in the Corn Belt is surprising today considering the dry period we’ve recently been in. Today, it’s raining in parts of Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, and Arkansas.

The crop progress report Monday, Aug. 13 showed corn and soybean conditions dropping 1 percent in each category, with soybeans now rated 66 percent G/E, and the Pro Ag yield model unchanged at 48.5 bu/acre. That is now over 3 bu/acre less than USDA’s ill-conceived 51.6 bu/acre yield projected Friday in the August USDA report. Where they came up with that number this early is beyond us to explain! Pro Farmer’s tour coming up in the next few weeks won’t even put out a soybean yield estimate as they say it’s too early in the season. They simply count pods! So where did USDA come up with a 3.1 bu/acre hike in the August report to a new record yield? Exasperating to say the least!

Corn conditions dropped 1 percent to 70 percent rated G/E, with the Pro Ag yield model down 0.25 bu/acre to 177 bu. USDA is at 178+, but at least they are closer on the corn number for now. And corn is more developed than soybeans so yields might be accurately rated to a point. Corn is 73 percent dough stage (17 percent ahead of normal), and 26 percent dented (13 percent ahead).

Soybeans are 96 percent blooming (4 percent ahead), and 84 percent setting pods (12 percent ahead). Cotton is 96 percent squaring (2 percent behind), and 77 percent setting bolls (1 percent behind), with 13 percent bolls opening (4 percent ahead). Ratings are still 40 percent rated G/E, the same as last week and well below last year’s 61 percent G/E rating. Sorghum is 78 percent headed (5 percent ahead), and 37 percent coloring (1 percent ahead) and 21 percent mature (3 percent behind). Conditions are steady in sorghum at 49 percent rated G/E, also well behind last year’s 64 percent rating.

Winter wheat is 94 percent harvested (2 percent behind), with oats harvest 67 percent (3 percent behind), and HRS wheat surging forward to 35 percent harvested (8 percent ahead of normal). HRS wheat conditions rose 1 percent to 75 percent rated G/E, with barley conditions up 2 percent to 81 percent rated G/E. Barley harvest is 3 percent ahead of normal at 41 percent complete.

Soil moisture levels nationally depleted 1 percent topsoil to 57 percent (now below last year’s 60 percent adequate/surplus rating), while subsoil dropped 1 percent to 57 percent adequate/surplus. But there isn’t much left of this production year, as by early September most crops will be winding down and getting ready for harvest.

It’s amazing how poorly this year started, and how good it is ending up. We will likely have an above average corn and soybean crop, but perhaps not as good as USDA is currently projecting with their wild yield hikes Friday?

Ray Grabanski can be reached at raygrabanski@progressiveag.com.

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