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USDA crop progress: Hitting the harvest halfway point

bernardbodo/iStock/GettyImagesPlus Machines harvesting corn on a sunny field.
Corn nears a major milestone, while soybeans pass it and winter wheat planting marches forward.

This past week, corn harvest reached the halfway point – well, almost, with USDA marking this year’s progress now at 49%. Soybean harvest made even greater strides, meantime, as did planting for the 2018/19 U.S. winter wheat crop.

For the week ending October 21, USDA has corn harvest pegged at 49% complete – up from 39% the week prior and still ahead of 2017’s pace of 37% and the five-year average of 47%. While some states are still off to a relatively low start, the average was propped up by five states with 80% or greater completion, including Illinois (82%), Kentucky (84%), Missouri (85%), North Carolina (92%) and Tennessee (92%).

Corn condition remains mostly unchanged, with 68% of the crop in good-to-excellent condition. Analysts expected a drop to 67%, but USDA did shift crop ratings slightly, with the breakdown between good and excellent moving from 47%/21% the prior week to 48%/20% last week. Another 20% of the crop is rated fair, with the remaining 12% rated poor or very poor – all unchanged from the prior week.

Soybean harvest made even bigger inroads last week, according to USDA – reaching 53% complete. That’s up from 38% the week prior but moves moderately behind 2017’s pace of 67% and the five-year average of 69%.

Soybean harvest progress throughout the Midwest hovers nearer the nationwide average, with southern states such as Louisiana (91%) and Mississippi (80%) continuing to lead the charge. But a handful of other states, including Kansas (23%), Iowa (37%), Missouri (33%), North Carolina (23%) and Wisconsin (36%) have yet to reach the 40% mark as of October 21.

Soybean crop quality remained firm, at 66% in good-to-excellent condition, despite analysts expecting USDA to dock crop quality a point this past week. Another 23% of the crop is rated fair, with the remaining 11% rated poor or very poor – all unchanged from the prior week.

The 2018/19 U.S. winter wheat crop moved from 65% planted the prior week to 72% complete last week. That pace is slightly behind 2017’s pace of 73% and the five-year average of 77%. Another 53% of the crop is emerged, improving from 44% a week ago and slightly ahead of 2017’s pace of 50%. This year’s pace of emergence still falls slightly behind the five-year average of 55%.

Other crop progress of note includes:

  • Sugarbeet harvest reached 65%, up from 42% the week prior.
  • Sorghum harvest reached 46%, up from 42% the week prior.
  • Cotton harvest reached 39%, up from 32% the week prior.
  • Peanut harvest reached 56%, up from 45% the week prior.
  • Rice harvest reached 90%, up from 88% the week prior.
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