Farm Futures logo

Corn harvest advances despite rain and snow.

Jacqueline Holland, Grain market analyst

October 27, 2020

7 Min Read
Mature rows of field corn covered with snow with woods in the background.
mvburling/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Despite a week of soggy and cold weather across much of the Midwest and Northern Plains, corn harvest advanced 12% on the week to 72% complete as of October 25 according to yesterday’s weekly Crop Progress report from USDA. Analyst estimates placed harvest further along at 73% complete. Progress is 16% ahead of the five-year average for the same time period, easing concerns about long-term crop damage.

Dry conditions continue to plague farmers on the Plains who were largely exempt from last week’s precipitation. “Dry conditions with days of high wind has most of the corn flat,” a Nebraska farmer said in dismay. “This makes for slow combining. Yields are down below average.” Another Nebraska farmer warned that “without subsoil moisture, we could possibly see a 2012 repeat.”

“Harvest will be at a standstill for quite a while for those still needed to harvest soybeans,” in Ohio, according to a local Farm Futures reader. “The fields are even getting too wet for picking corn!”

Attention in coming weeks will focus largely on progress in the Eastern Corn Belt, where a cool and wet spring delayed planting. Ohio (32%), and Pennsylvania (48%) are all slightly behind the five-year average of 52% complete for both states.

Yield estimates continue to vary wildly across the reader base. “Good yield, but not as good as last year,” noted a central Illinois farmer. Yield estimates of “234 bpa” were reported in Ohio, where wet weather left “mold developing due to excess moisture.”

A Colorado farmer estimated corn yields “seem to be down a good 20 bushels per acre.” Meanwhile in Nebraska, “corn yields averaged 155 bpa.”

Northern U.S. states receiving substantial snowfall over the past week, including Minnesota (72%), North Dakota (73%), and South Dakota (79%) lost little ground despite last week’s snow and rain delays. But it likely matters little. Each state is 25% - 42% ahead of the five-year average. And with warmer weather expected by the end of the week, it seems likely corn harvest will continue at a rapid clip in the region.

An Iowa farmer’s crop was “flat and been snowed on. Not sure when or if I can get it out.” A Minnesota grower was also having a “hard time getting the last 40% of my crop out because of 8 inches of snow.”

Soybean harvest stumbles

Soybean harvest saw a slightly bigger delay from last week’s snow and rain storms across the Heartland. Progress only advanced 8% on the week to 83% complete as of Sunday. The five-year average of 73% complete closed in on the week’s progress. The progress surprised market analysts, who had pegged the weekly total at 86% complete.

But the largest stragglers are in areas that have less potential for snow accumulation this early in the year and are more susceptible to warmer autumn temperatures. Kansas (78%), Arkansas (62%), Kentucky (51%), Missouri (50%), and Tennessee (51%) all have plenty of time for dry weather to revive harvest paces this week.

Feedback from the Field

But many are starting to feel anxious about completing harvest with the recent rains. “8 of last 9 days of rain will take a while before they will dry out to cut,” worried a Michigan farmer with 65% of the soybean crop left in the field.

As the Eastern Corn Belt dries out this week, expect harvest to move at a faster clip in next week’s report. Many top-growing soybean states, including Illinois (90%), Iowa (94%), North Dakota (97%), and South Dakota (95%), are approaching the end of soybean harvest season and other states will likely follow quickly behind.

Yield estimates dominated last week’s Feedback from the Field responses and preliminary results look strong across the Eastern Corn Belt. “Soybeans averaged 69 bpa,” reported one Central Illinois Farm Futures reader. “63.2 overall bpa” was calculated in Iowa with “64.3 bpa” recorded in Ohio.

“Had one new E3 bean average 74 bu/ac over 100 acres and 3 farms,” a Kentucky grower summarized. “[One field] did yield 84 bu/ac on 30 ac behind my house which is outstanding.”

Dry weather in Nebraska was more limiting to yields, with one local reader reporting “45 bpa” for final yields.

Growers wait to see results of recent moisture

Wheat planting progress inched up 8% from the previous week to 85% complete for the week ending October 25. Rains and snow in the Upper Midwest and Eastern Corn Belt last week slowed planting progress, bring the five-year average within 5% of the weekly completion rate.

In the heart of wheat country, growers are growing desperate for precipitation. “Some wheat won’t come up until we get moisture,” a Nebraska farmer warned.

Last week’s precipitation did little to adequately alleviate dry soil conditions impacting emergence rates. While 62% of the planted winter wheat crop was emerged as of Sunday – 11% more than the previous week – the five-year average of 60% closed in on the weekly completion rate as dry soils continue to take a toll on the young crop.

But growers remain optimistic. “Recent snow should help [with dry conditions],” a Colorado wheat grower rationalized. “Hopefully we can finish next week planting,” a Kentucky farmer hoped.

USDA’s first week of condition ratings for the winter wheat crop also indicated potential yield damage with the newly planted crop. As of October 25, 41% of winter wheat acreage was rated in good to excellent condition. During the same reporting week a year ago, 56% of the crop was rated good to excellent as dry weather continues to take its toll.

Warmer temps and clear skies ahead

Warmer temperatures are on the way for areas waiting to return to the fields after last week’s snow events. The probability of above average temperatures in the Northern and Central Plains is currently forecast at 35% - 70% for the first week of November 2020, according to NOAA’s 6 to 10-day outlook.

6-10 day. outlook temperature probability

Temperatures will remain at average to below-average levels in the Eastern Corn Belt as harvest activities wind down. Warmer temperatures will cover the entire continental U.S. next weekend, providing farmers a chance wrap up a fast harvest season.

Dry weather is also forecast through the entirety of next week. Much of the U.S. will experience a 33% - 50% chance of below average rainfall during the time period. The dry conditions are expected to last through next weekend as farmers race to finish harvest 2020.

6-10 day precipitation probability

Follow along with the season:

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.

Subscribe to receive top agriculture news
Be informed daily with these free e-newsletters

You May Also Like