Market analyst: Prevented planting acres and frost date

Ray Grabanski
Special to the Farm Forum

07/30/19 — Weather is perfect for temperatures normally this time of year — cooler than average for pollination. But precip amounts have also been below average for most all of the Corn Belt the past week. For the past 30 days, many central Corn Belt states have seen below normal precip including Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio so the soils have been drying out in these states. What is interesting is that it was the light soils that were so highly rated until now as they were planted early, and got all the rain they needed. One irrigator indicated the dryland crop was almost better than the irrigated it was so wet! But now we get the August truth serum on yields, and as happens so often, it looks like the sandy, light soils will once again fade at the end of the year in yield potential.

Today, very little precip is forecast for the coming week. The private long term forecasts show below normal precip and temps for the 8-14 day period, with below normal precip in the next 7 days as well. The National Weather Service has it a bit wetter in the next 7 days, but it certainly hasn’t been wet recently. The cool temps might not necessarily be what we need with a very late developing crop. Heat and rain is preferred now, but it doesn’t look like we’ll get either.

Crop progress was out yesterday, 7/29 and the numbers are starting to show the ‘warts’ of this year’s crop. Corn crop ratings actually rose 1% to 58% G/E, but the Pro Ag yield model declined 1.83 bu/acre to 168.6 bu, below 174 trend and still above USDA’s 166 July number. This is the first week the yield has dropped in over a month! The problem is that heavy, high yielding ground is so far behind normal in progress (nationally only 58% silking vs. 83% normally) while sandy ground is losing yield potential due to dry weather. Corn dough is 13%, 10% behind normal. Soybean yield potential was virtually steady at 47 bu/acre (conditions unchanged), but has also declined the past 2 weeks. Soybeans are only 57% blooming, 22% behind normal and 21% setting pods (24% behind normal). So both corn and soybeans are starting to see declines in yield potential after improvements for the previous month (mid-June through Mid-July).

Sorghum is also 17% behind normal in heading at only 33%, and conditions declined 2% to 71% G/E (but still pretty good in the dry west). Winter wheat is 75% harvested (11% behind normal) but the harvest is not to blame — it has been mostly uninterrupted by rain in most areas. It just was a very slow developing crop due to cold/wet condition through mid-June. When harvested started, it dried up and made for a good harvest. The alarming notes in this report were under soil moisture, which declined an unprecedented 7% in topsoil and 5% subsoil in just one week (rated adequate/surplus). Soils are still nearly ideal after being so wet into mid-June, but the rate they are declining it won’t take long to dry out the light soils — which is the best looking crop.

President Donald Trump tweeted on July 30 about the Chinese trade negotiations which started earlier today, essentially complaining that China always changes the terms at the end to their favor – because it has worked with U.S. negotiations for the past 30 years as the U.S. leaders put up with it. He fully expects them to continue their poor faith negotiations until the next election, and hope for a Democrat win (and interfere all they can to prevent Trump’s re-election).

So the growing season drags along with the markets being lulled into complacency on what might be the worst U.S. crop in decades. But we don’t know it yet, as USDA can’t seem to get an estimate on the prevented planting acres (which is likely 10-15 million acres of corn/beans). We hear now that cover crop corn planted on prevented planting acres will count as corn acres in the next survey. We also seem to have a nearly normal crop in the fields — if you don’t look at the calendar date. The problem is this crop is late and susceptible to a lot more problems from frost date. We will lose crop production when it freezes — the only question is how much. Will it be 1% loss, or 3%, or 5% or more? As late as crops were planted and are maturing, God help us if we freeze two weeks early!