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Recent rains help save some yields, but not all

Feedback from the Field: Top-end yields are off the table for 2023, but it is not yet certain where those estimates will ultimately land.

Jacqueline Holland, Grain market analyst

August 16, 2023

6 Min Read
Auger unloading soybeans into grain trailer
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Author’s note: How are you and your farm holding up in the heat? Share your crop insights with Farm Futures’ Feedback from the Field series. 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!

Typically, I try to make these reports more of a story but today I’m going to try something different. I have received so much excellent feedback from all of our Feedback from the Field farmer respondents in recent weeks that I want to highlight those insights rather than drone on.

The markets are still reeling slightly from Monday's better-than-expected Crop Progress reports and Friday’s worse-than-expected corn and soybean yield forecasts. At this point in the year, it is a little easier for farmers to predict production and finalize sales though there is still plenty of time for the unknown between now and harvest.

Recent rains have been nothing short of a godsend to many growers, but some still were left feeling the effects of early season heat and dryness. Here is what has been weighing on these farmers’ minds over the past couple weeks. Thank you again to all who continue to participate in our Feedback from the Field series!

Related:Crop progress: Soybean quality shoots unexpectedly higher

Corn yields are likely to face more susceptibility to unfavorable weather conditions throughout the growing season, based on the timing of recent rains. And while the showers are still welcomed by growers, there are still signs of yield damage across the country.

  • “Very uneven stands. Recent rains have stabilized the decline in quality. Quantity is yet to be determined. The yields have been dramatically affected by the drought in our immediate area.” – Central Minnesota

  • “Drought has taken its toll. Expect 165-180 bushels when planned for 235 bpa.” – Central Minnesota

  • “Kernel row counts are down 2-4 reflecting early season drought. Recent rains have helped but the yield loss has already taken place in mid-July.” – Western Indiana

  • “We are very dry at the time of the year when the corn crop needs moisture the most. Potential crop yields in this area are decreasing with every passing day.” – Northern Ohio

  • “Since the corn popped out of the ground on 5/17 we’ve only had 2 inches of rain. Leaves are all burned up to just below the ear leaf, likely to lose that one [in early August]. Several growers around here have canceled plans for fungicide on corn, not wanting to throw any more money at it.” – Northern Iowa

  • “No rain since July 5th. Extreme temperatures.” – Eastern Washington

  • “Just barely getting enough rain to keep crops going.” – Southwestern Wisconsin

Related:USDA reports smaller 2023 corn, soybean production

But there is room for optimism too – I’ve spoken with a couple farmers in recent weeks who thought their crops were headed for the crisper in late June but enjoyed plentiful showers since then.

  • “We were dry early then had plenty of moisture ever since.” – Northern Kentucky

  • “Dry earlier but now wet.” – Western Kentucky

  • “I have had normal rainfall of 4" per month and cooler temperatures.” – Southern Indiana

  • “[Dryland corn] never looked better at this stage.” – Southeastern Nebraska

  • “Real hot but looking ok.” – Southern Kansas

  • “Has improved dramatically since first of July.” – Central Illinois

  • “Super dry until 2 weeks preflower, then adequate rain, nice temps for flowering and ear showing 18 kernels around and about 40 kernels long at about 30000 productive plants/acre. Weather is fine, with just enough rain to get by.” – Eastern Iowa

  • “Has potential to be one of our better crops.” – North Carolina

The recent showers and moderate temperatures sent corn conditions up 2% on the week in yesterday’s Crop Progress report from USDA to 59% good to excellent through August 13. The markets were only expecting a 1% weekly increase.

Soybeans saw an even bigger weekly jump, rising a surprising 4% on the week also to 59% good to excellent. Markets were only expecting a 1% weekly increase for soybean ratings through last Sunday, which suggests that recent rains across the Midwest were highly beneficial for pod development.

  • “Beans look great unless too much wetness causes problems.” – Central IL

  • “Good, but way shorter than normal.” – Western Illinois

  • “Good, but short due to early dryness.” – Eastern Iowa

  • “Dry weather may hinder pod development in regular planted beans. Double cropped beans are still in early stages with adequate moisture in no-till conditions.” – Central Kansas

  • “Will need moisture two or three times to achieve 65 bu/acre.” – Central Iowa (note – this response was from late July – Iowa has received decent rains since then.)

  • “Early planting pays!” – Northern Illinois

  • “Full season beans look good, double crop remains to be seen.” – North Carolina

But parts of the Upper Midwest – especially in Minnesota, the Dakotas, and the Lake Michigan region – are likely to still see some yield damage due to lack of rainfall and heat early in the growing season.

  • “The amount of pods per joint is reduced because of the heat and drought during the reproductive stage. Rains now won't increase pod count. A lot of blossoms were aborted due the extreme heat and drought conditions. The recent rains have helped the crop conditions.” – Central Minnesota

  • “Pod counts are down due to mid-July severe drought.” – Western Indiana

  • “We are very dry when the soybean crop needs the most moisture.” – Northern Ohio

  • “Only 3.5 inches of rain since planting.” – West Central Minnesota

  • “Looks ok but starting to silver up guessing by the looks of the damage 10-15 bu/a under normal.” – Northern Minnesota

  • “Very short, very droughted. Damage done.” – Eastern Minnesota

  • “Very short beans due to drought, 10-15 bushels gone off the top easily. Will need August rains to salvage a decent crop that can pay the bills.” – Central Minnesota

Winter wheat harvest is largely wrapping up across the country, with USDA reporting harvest completion rates at 94% as of August 13. The few harvest reports we have received in recent weeks all chronicle dry growing conditions that scorched yield prospects.

  • “20-25% below average yields (75 bu/ac) with Protein and Test Weight large dockages. Less than 1" of rainfall since the end of May has taken a detrimental toll on everything from wells running dry to dryland crops and even the state of mental health.” – Eastern Washington

  • “Fair to poor,” reflected a Central Kansas grower of the HRW wheat harvest.

  • “Better than I expected! Over 100 bu./acre.” – Western Ohio

  • “Good” to “very good” reported SRW growers in Kentucky, Missouri, and North Carolina.

Spring wheat conditions also improved over the past week, rising 1% to 42% good to excellent. Through Sunday, 24% of the crop had been harvested, up 13% from the previous week as dry weather has accelerated maturity.

  • “Wheat looks to be about 2 weeks ahead of normal and upon inspection guessing about 20bu/a under average for our area or worse. Northwestern Minnesota and Eastern North Dakota crops have taken a lot of heat and drought damage” – Northern Minnesota

  • “Actively cutting the spring wheat. Without a doubt the worst Spring Crops in Eastern WA since I have been farming.” – Eastern Washington

  • “The drought improved the ability to resist disease and it aided in the test weight and protein levels. The yield quality is better than last year.” – Central Minnesota

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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