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Spring wheat conditions also take a hit, while some optimism holds for soybean crops

Jacqueline Holland, Grain market analyst

August 9, 2022

10 Min Read
Sun shining on green corn leaves

Author’s note: You can participate in the Feedback from the Field series as often as you’d like this growing season! Just click this link to take the survey and share updates about your farm’s spring progress. I review and upload results daily to the FFTF Google MyMap, so farmers can see others’ responses from across the country – or even across the county!

A week after surprising markets by leaving corn conditions unchanged at 61% good to excellent, USDA cleaved 3% off corn ratings in yesterday’s Crop Progress report, once again startling market watchers. Through the week ending August 7, 58% of the crop was in good to excellent condition.

Analysts had been expecting a smaller cut – only a 1% downgrade – so USDA’s update ushered in some bullish sentiment into the corn market in this morning’s trading session.

Weekend rains were not enough to offset some of last week’s heat in the Upper Midwest. Crop development remains a handful of points behind five-year averages thanks to a slow start to the season and a somewhat turbulent growing season. These factors will all be considered in Friday’s USDA report, which will feature the first look at farmer-surveyed corn and soybean yields for the first time in the 2022 growing season.

Corn conditions

Feedback from the Field farmers across the country are dealing with variable conditions. Growers are fighting to maintain positivity after receiving some lucky breaks amid another turbulent growing season.

A Kentucky grower survived recent rains to find corn crops in good condition. “The only question would be pollination issues from first planted corn, maybe a few blank kernels on some ears.”

Even with some hiccups during the season, FFTF respondents are increasingly more optimistic about crop conditions in August than back in June. “Compaction on end rows,” was the only complaint from a Northern Illinois grower who reported good corn conditions last week. “Damage from strong winds,” was reported by a Northwestern Indiana farmer, whose corn crop also was in good condition.

Another Northwestern Indiana farmer explained that despite some early growing season headwinds, corn crops are in excellent shape. “First half (w/tile) as good as we've ever had. We had ugly planting conditions. It was very dry in June, then we received 5" in 30 hours on July 5 and total 9" in July. We did side dressing in the dust but looks great now. The fungicide perfectly cleaned the corn. We need 2-3" of well-timed rain and it will be record or near it. County APH is 180. We are very blessed!”

Dry weather remains a top concern in the Upper Midwest. “The crop is living on sub-soil moisture and needs more rain,” cautioned a Central Minnesota producer with good corn conditions.

“At this time, this is the best corn and soybean crop that we’ve ever had,” another Northern Illinois farmer observed of excellent corn crops. “On the way to best crop ever, just a few days late,” an east-central Wisconsin corn grower observed.

Some growers are still fighting for a chance at good yields this year. “It was very hot and dry in June during ear and kernel development,” explained a central Indiana farmer. “Late July rains salvaged the crop. Ear size and kernel count will be slightly lower than in years past.”

“Need rain badly,” an eastern Nebraska grower pleaded with Mother Nature. “This next week is not going to be good.” Growers in northwestern Wisconsin, western Illinois, and western Iowa echoed the sentiment upon reporting corn crops in fair condition. “No record crops this year, way below average yields expected,” forecast the western Illinois respondent.

And not everyone’s corn is in great shape. In southwest Missouri, one farmer is already throwing in the towel on this year’s corn crop. “Part of the crop is being baled or chopped. The rest is just dying,” the grower shared.

“The highest crop insurance estimate I have heard in our area is 21 bu/acre. Most acres are zeroed out. There is some irrigation, but it is a struggle to keep up with water. It will be the worst corn crop I have tried to raise in 31 years. Or maybe I should say the worst crop I haven’t raised,” the same farmer quipped.

Sentiments are similar just north of Minneapolis, where one producer reports very poor conditions. “We received our first rain since planting,” the grower shared late last week. “It is a little late for small grains and corn. Maybe it will help beans?”

Just across the border in northwestern Wisconsin, the sentiments are similar as one farmer evaluates a corn crop in very poor condition, though remains optimistic about beans. “We will probably be 50% of average yield in corn. Any rain now is too late. Maybe we’ll get an average bean crop yet.”

Through Sunday, corn silking progress was 90% complete (5YA – 93%). Doughing was reported at 45% complete through August 7, up 19% on the week but 4% below the five-year average benchmark. USDA reported denting progress for the first time in the 2022 growing cycle with only 6% of the nation’s crop experiencing kernel denting, down 3% from the five-year average.

Spring wheat ratings surprise

And just like that, we are harvesting hard red spring wheat in South Dakota! U.S. Wheat Associates reported that harvest is advancing quickly in the state, which was 50% complete as of late last week. Protein levels are reportedly “excellent.” Top producers North Dakota and Minnesota are likely still two to four weeks from starting harvest following spring planting delays.

Test cuttings began last week for the durum wheat harvest in Montana. North Dakota’s crops continue to look good despite planting delays but the state’s durum harvest is still a few weeks away from ramping up. Hot and dry summer weather should accelerate maturation rates, however.

One FFTF grower in Minnesota shared excellent crop condition ratings for their spring wheat crop, noting harvest had already begun. “We are harvesting. Wheat is 13%MT, 61 TW, but small kernels due to a dry summer.”

Heat in the Northern Plains led USDA to cut 6% from spring wheat crop conditions in yesterday’s Crop Progress report. The move surprised market watchers, who had been predicting USDA would report spring wheat to be in 70% good to excellent condition through Sunday. However, USDA dropped the spring wheat ratings to 64% good to excellent for the week, leaving room for bullish spring wheat price action at the Minneapolis Grains Exchange this morning.

Not everywhere is enjoying favorable growing conditions this spring, though. One Idaho respondent in the FFTF series reported very poor crop conditions, noting that it is “dry and hot” in the region. “The crop has an excellent stand and had a good start but everything else is working against it,” the producer shared.

USDA also reported the first week of spring wheat harvest in the Northern Plains through August 7. Markets had been predicting 9% of the crop has been harvested so far and USDA confirmed that value in yesterday’s Crop Progress report. Much of the progress has advanced in South Dakota, though harvesting paces in Montana will likely pick up this week as well.

Soybeans edge lower; more mixed conditions

Markets also eagerly anticipated yesterday’s USDA updates on soybean conditions and this time, the analysts did not miss the mark on their pre-report USDA predictions. Market watchers forecasted a 1% weekly drop in soybean condition ratings and USDA delivered on that forecast, cutting soybean conditions through August 7 to 59% good to excellent.

The crop will be closely monitored over the next couple weeks as peak pod fill is currently underway. Extended forecasts are predicting hot and dry weather across the Heartland as the middle of August approaches, which could threaten pod fill rates and ultimately, yields.

Soybean condition

Many FFTF respondents have been mindful of that critical timing and some are already benefiting from grabbing that narrow window of opportunity.

“Late July rains and relative cooler temps arrived at the exact right time to enhance plant growth and pod set,” shared a grower in west-central Indiana. “We will need more rain in August to support 3 bean pods.”

Timing is everything for this year’s bean crop. “Late beans, planted post-June 5, have a long way to go. They look good but are short. May beans look dynamite,” shared a northwestern Indiana soybean grower.

Double-crop beans are also progressing nicely in areas where timely rains and temperatures have been observed. “We have had enough rain for the double crop beans to really progress,” a Kentucky producer reported. “Full season beans are moving fast with putting on pods and still blooming in the upper canopy.”

“Best we have ever had at this time,” exclaimed a northern Illinois grower. “Now we are dependent upon a few little showers to complete 70-75 bpa beans,” predicted a southeastern Iowa grower.

Of course, not all soybeans are set on yield this year, especially in areas facing moisture shortages this summer. In Missouri, two FFTF growers reported very poor soybean conditions. One noted, “The crop is struggling to stay alive. Hopefully we get some rain soon or it will end up like the corn crop.” The other echoed, “All of our beans were double cropped and planted in July.”

“We had a quarter of an inch of rain during that month and have only had 3/10 of an inch in August so far. Plants are dying.”

Pockets in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Missouria, Iowa – all top soybean-producing states – are in drought, according to University of Nebraska’s weekly drought monitor. And that dryness is apparent in the FFTF responses.

U.S. drought monitor

“Soybeans are struggling due to a lack of surface moisture,” shared a Minnesota grower. “Hot and dry conditions,” are causing fair condition ratings for soybean crops “planted very late” in western Illinois. “Will be flat pods if it doesn’t rain soon,” fretted a western Iowa grower.

“It needs a soaking rain!” exclaimed a northern Wisconsin producer. “It’s not in the forecast!”

About 89% of the nation’s soybean crop had bloomed as of August 7, up 1% from the five-year average. Plants with pods setting were reported at 61% complete as of last Sunday, 5% below the five-year average for the same reporting period.

Winter wheat harvest focus turns to PNW

wheat harvest to date

Winter wheat harvesting rates moved to 86% complete as of August 7, according to yesterday’s Crop Progress report. Market analysts had been predicting that value would result closer to 89% complete ahead of the report’s release thanks to hot and dry weather in the Pacific Northwest over the past week that encouraged crop maturation and harvest progress.

With soft red winter wheat harvest largely completed, market focus is likely to shift to completion rates for the hard red winter and white wheat crops. “With hot, dry conditions, the HRW harvest is moving fast,” U.S. Wheat Associates noted in their most recent Harvest Report, issued last Friday.

HRW harvest is nearly complete in Colorado, Nebraska, Wyoming, and South Dakota. Focus will now be centered on harvesting speeds the Northern Plains and the Pacific Northwest, which are likely to remain accelerated as dry weather continues to linger in both regions.

An eastern Nebraska farmer in the FFTF series reported a 25 bpa wheat yield – and “50-bushel straw.”

Soft red wheat growers in the Midwest fared better. “13 acres went 100 bpa, 75 acres were killed and planted to corn, and 150 acres didn't get planted due to wet fall (now it’s a great looking field of back-to-back beans),” noted a Kentucky producer.

“Excellent yields and quality,” echoed a grower in northern Wisconsin.

Sample data from soft red winter wheat testing points to quality metrics that meet or exceed the five-year average. Data compiled by the Great Plains Analytical Laboratory points to slightly higher protein readings and test weights for the soft red winter wheat crop, which reconciles with Feedback from the Field farmer reports of excellent yields.

080922 wheat grade conditions.png

The soft white wheat crop in the Pacific Northwest continues to benefit from hot and dry conditions in the Pacific Northwest. Harvest is underway for winter varieties in Oregon (36%), Idaho (14%), and Washington (10%), while the spring varieties continue to develop favorably in the heat. More hot and dry weather this week should keep harvest and plant growth rates steady.

About the Author(s)

Jacqueline Holland

Grain market analyst, Farm Futures

Holland grew up on a dairy farm in northern Illinois. She obtained a B.S. in Finance and Agribusiness from Illinois State University where she was the president of the ISU chapter of the National Agri-Marketing Association. Holland earned an M.S. in Agricultural Economics from Purdue University where her research focused on large farm decision-making and precision crop technology. Before joining Farm Progress, Holland worked in the food manufacturing industry as a financial and operational analyst at Pilgrim's and Leprino Foods. She brings strong knowledge of large agribusiness management to weekly, monthly and daily market reports. In her free time, Holland enjoys competing in triathlons as well as hiking and cooking with her husband, Chris. She resides in the Fort Collins, CO area.

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