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After a week of warm weather and sporadic rainfall across the Midwest and Plains, USDA kept corn condition ratings at 69% good to excellent for the second week in a row in yesterday’s latest Crop Progress report. But conditions vary wildly across growing regions, according to Farm Futures readers responding to the Feedback from the Field series.
“Best crop in 45 years of farming,” a Northern Illinois reader shared of his corn crop. But a few miles up the road in Southwest Wisconsin, a grower lamented that recent rains would likely not undo damage caused by an accompanying windstorm. “[Corn is] down, twisted and won’t pollinate from wind over the weekend,” they said. “Nothing will be produced.”
Pollination progress continued at a rapid pace, as silking increased 30% from the previous week to 59%, 5% ahead of the five-year average. Heat stress in top corn producing states was not a deterrent as most top producing states reported silking progress ahead of the five-year average. “It’s getting dry but holding in there,” a Northern Iowa farmer shared over the weekend. “Heat will be the biggest issue in the next few days.”
But looming drought conditions to the west could threaten yields in Nebraska, Kansas, Western Iowa, states that are among the top corn producing regions in the country. “We are finally getting some rain, but it may be too late for the dry land corn,” wrote a West Central Kansas Farm Futures reader.
A late planting season and dry weather in Ohio may be holding back silking progress in the Buckeye state, though few other top producing states were noticeably lagging behind the five-year average. “The corn crop is fast approaching the point of no return with no rain in sight,” a northern Ohio grower warned.
Soybeans improve but need rain
A week after good to excellent conditions fell 3%, soybean ratings rose 1% to 69% good to excellent across the U.S. for the week ending July 19. The developing crop benefited from last week’s weather conditions with 64% of U.S. soy fields blooming as of Sunday, up from 48% a week ago and ahead of the five-year average of 57% for the same period.
“Beans could be good with a little more rain moving forward,” a Northern Iowa reader shared going into the weekend. “So far we have not spotted pest issues but are watching.”
Of the top ten soybean producing states in the country, only top producer Illinois was behind its five-year average in blooming progress. Heavy showers last spring sent many central Illinois farmers back to the fields to replant soybeans – a fact made clear and slightly exacerbated by dry conditions as blooming progress trails the five-year average by 4% at 55%.
“Beans are slowly growing,” a Central Illinois grower who reported soybean crops in very poor condition observed. “I have seen a few farmers out cultivating for weeds that the spray had little to no effect on.”
As of Sunday, 25% of U.S. soybeans had set pods, up 14% from the previous week and ahead of the five-year average of 21%. Favorable rains and growing conditions in the coming week will likely continue to benefit the developing U.S. soy crop.
Growers in the far east Corn Belt reported signs of struggle with early drought conditions as one Northern Ohio grower pointed out. “Soybeans are also suffering badly from drought but are not as bad off yet as the corn crop,” the farmer reported. Most Farm Futures respondents in the past two weeks emphasized dry soils and a need for rain across the Grain Belt.
Winter wheat harvest wraps up in the Midwest
Scattered rains across the Central Plains last week slowed winter wheat harvest progress, according to the latest Crop Progress report. While national harvest progress rose 6% from the previous week to 74% completed as of Sunday, harvest pace dropped 1% below the five-year average on rain delays.
“It was probably one of our best winter wheat crops we have had in recent years,” a North Carolina farmer said of the recently harvested crop. “Great yields with consistent test weight.”
Soft white wheat harvests in the Pacific Northwest and north central U.S. states slowly began and were the chief contributors to a slightly slower national winter wheat harvest pace.
Spring wheat ratings remained steady at 68% good to excellent for the second week in a row. Heading progress neared completion with 91% of the spring wheat crop headed as of Sunday. It was an 11% increase from the prior week even though it dipped 3% lower than the five-year average. A Minnesota grower bemoaned signs of pest damage in the spring wheat crop, noting “we had bad army worm damage before we noticed it. The leaves are mostly gone.”
Pastureland dries up
Pasture conditions deteriorated slightly across the U.S. on hot and dry weather forecasts, according to the latest Crop Progress data released last night. As of Sunday, only 35% of U.S. pasture ground was in good to excellent condition, compared to 66% a year ago. As of July 14, over 20% of land in the U.S. and Puerto Rico was classified as abnormally dry with another 23% ranging in moderate to extreme drought condition, according to the University of Nebraska Drought Monitor.
This summer’s scorching temperatures have hit western U.S. states especially hard. About two-thirds of the Western U.S. are categorized in a drought state as pasture and rangeland conditions housing key cattle producing areas are negatively impacted. “We are seeing our lowest rangeland and pasture conditions nationally since the drought year of 2012,” USDA meteorologist Brad Rippey pointed out. La Niña conditions forecasted this fall threaten to exacerbate warm and dry conditions in the Grain Belt.
Weather window narrows
NOAA’s 6-10 Day Outlook forecast was updated on Sunday as well. In most of the Central U.S. grain belt, there is a 60-80% probability of above average temperatures with limited rainfall. The lone exception to is in the Northern Plains and Upper Mississippi River Valley, where precipitation accumulation above average is 33-40% higher than average levels for July 25-29.
The next week’s forecast does not bode well for growing areas that missed out on scattered rainstorms in past weeks. As of July 14, over 20% of land in the U.S. and Puerto Rico was classified as abnormally dry with another 23% ranging in moderate to extreme drought condition, according to the University of Nebraska Drought Monitor.
NOAA’s 8 to 14 Day Outlook offers slightly more precipitation and moderate temperatures going into August. This could give pollinating crops enough of a window to avoid major heat damage before another round of scorching weather rolls in during the first two weeks of August.
Follow along with the season:
Feedback from the Field: July 7, 2020 - Crops stand up to hot weather – for now.
Feedback from the Field: June 30, 2020 - Despite strong ratings, the corn crop may face challenges during silking process.
Feedback From The Field: June 23, 2020 - Readers report solid corn and soybean crop quality so far this year.