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USDA crop progress: Corn harvest pace still significantly slow

Current progress is 54%, versus a five-year average of 72%.

The 2017 corn harvest is now officially more than halfway complete, according to Monday’s latest USDA Crop Progress report. That still puts harvest pace well behind the five-year average of 72%. Soybean harvest pace nearly matches the five-year average, meantime.

The report was in line with trade expectations. Ahead of the report, a group of 10 industry analysts estimated corn harvest had reached between 50% and 54% completion.

Of the 18 states that harvest 94% of the country’s corn, nine had yet to harvest half of its crop, including Colorado (31%), Iowa (44%), Michigan (44%), Minnesota (38%), Nebraska (45%), North Dakota (37%), Ohio (48%), South Dakota (35%) and Wisconsin (25%).

“Harvest progress for corn and soybeans was pretty much in line with our expectations,” said Farm Futures senior grain market analyst Bryce Knorr. “Farmers made decent progress on corn, but many states continue to lag, with the northwest part of the growing region really slow comparted to normal. Cold, and in some cases, wet conditions may be slowing drying.”

USDA left the nation’s corn conditions ratings unchanged from a week ago. That leaves 16% of the crop rated excellent, 50% good, 23% fair, 8% poor and 3% very poor. Prior to this week, the crop’s G/E rating had gone up three consecutive weeks.

“While USDA kept its nationwide crop ratings unchanged, our model of the state-by-state conditions showed improvement over much of the central and eastern Midwest, with the exception of Illinois, Missouri and Kentucky,” Knorr said. “This added six-tenths of a bushel to our state model, which at 168.6 bushels per acre is still behind the model based on the national ranking which is at 170.4. USDA Oct. 12 estimated yields at 171.8 bpa and will update that forecast Nov. 9.”

The pace of harvest for soybeans has kept much closer to the five-year average. For the week ending October 29, USDA estimates 83% of the crop has been harvested, versus a five-year average of 84%. Only one state – North Carolina – hasn’t reached the halfway mark at this time.

While most crops are being harvested right now, winter wheat is going into the ground. The 2017/18 crop is now 84% planted and 65% emerged. Both categories are slightly behind the five-year averages.

With more than 50% of the winter wheat crop now emerged, USDA provides data on crop condition. In its first such report for 2017/18, USDA rates the crop as 9% excellent, 43% good, 36% fair, 8% poor and 4% very poor. That’s mostly in line with initial ratings for 2016/17, which started with a slightly higher G/E rating.

“The winter wheat crop is off to a weaker start that we anticipated based on vegetative health index maps made from satellite imagery,” Knorr said. “State-by-state and nationwide conditions suggested yield potential of 46.9 bpa to 47.2 bpa if conditions hold all the way until harvest. These early ratings don’t show a strong correlation to final yields because so much can change. So they’re a moving target, but one way to judge how the crop is faring.”

Knorr added that yield potential is down in Oklahoma and Kansas – two states where seeding has been slow. Conditions remain tough in the northern Plains, he said.

Sorghum harvest made some progress last week, moving from 47% to 59% complete. That’s still well behind 2016’s pace of 75% and the five-year average of 69%.

The cotton harvest is moving along at 46% complete, in line with the five-year average of 45%. Louisiana (94%), Arkansas (82%) and Missouri (81%) lead the charge.

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