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Feedback from the Field: Corn ratings sink amid heat

Crop Progress report, farmer responses signal more heat stress than expected for corn, soybean crops

Jacqueline Holland, Grain market analyst

July 6, 2022

9 Min Read
Corn at silking

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!

Yesterday’s Crop Progress report saw corn ratings take a larger than expected tumble in USDA’s weekly update as dry conditions across the Eastern Corn Belt keep yield concerns alive and well despite all of the recent rains across the Heartland.

Markets had been expecting ratings results to range between 63%-67% good to excellent prior to the report’s release, with an average guess of 65%. But USDA slashed three points from the weekly metric, dropping it down to 64% good to excellent as of July 3.

070622 U.S. corn condition ratings.png

Last month’s heat wave and dry weather across the Heartland are doing few favors for the nation’s corn crop, which has dropped a staggering six percentage points in condition ratings over the past two weeks. And while condition ratings tend to edge lower during the growing season, such a staggering change over such a short amount of time may be indicative of yield troubles.

Feedback from the Field participants across the country have overwhelmingly reported fair corn conditions as well as the need for rain. Farmer responses across Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio all lamented the need for rain amid dry soils.

“2012, here we come,” lamented a corn farmer near Indianapolis. As of a week ago, 68.65% of the U.S. is in some sort of abnormally dry to exceptional drought condition. For the same reporting period in 2012, only 51.33% of the country was experiencing severe dryness at that time.

June 28 2022 drought monitor map

The dry conditions are not just weighing down hopes for trendline yields – they are also making overall crop and pasture management tasks more challenging than usual.

  • “We are in terrible drought. Herbicides are not working as the weeds have shutdown, too. 70% of acres is gravity irrigated so corn and beans are stressed,” shared an Eastern Nebraska corn grower.

  • “We had 2 in of rain last Friday, but we are already too dry. Pastures are very poor. We need rain,” reported a Northeast Iowa grower.

  • “Heat/drought conditions are becoming a concern,” said a grower in east-central Illinois.

  • “Corn on thinner ground has been severely damaged, but higher producing areas are holding on. Best case if favorable weather returns through grain fill would a 20+% reduction of yield from the last couple of years,” forecasted a Western Kentucky corn farmer.

  • “We don't need to miss any rain event this week with the high temps, if we get rain then we should have some early planted corn tasseling, just don't want stressed corn, heat and pollination taking place at the same time,” strategized another Kentucky corn producer.

  • “In our area, we are in drought. Many hot and very windy days. However, there has been large acreage losses across Nebraska to catastrophic hail damage. If one can get crop to hilling and pipe laid out, there will be a crop. Pivot corners and dryland is going to have trouble making grain if rain doesn't happen soon,” stated a grower in northwestern Nebraska.

If this past week’s rains do not help improve ratings substantially in next week’s report, I expect that market volatility will increase with regards to impending weather forecasts. “If we don’t get rain this week, the crop will move to poor [condition],” foreshadowed an Indiana grower.

Last week’s Acreage Report from USDA did find around 400k extra acres of 2022 corn planted this spring, but if trendline yields can’t be reached, then tight supply situations are going to continue to prop up market prices for likely another year.

Corn silking process was starting to gain momentum in the Corn Belt as of this weekend, though progress is already peaking in Southern states. Through July 3, 7% of anticipated 2022 corn crops had reached the silking phase, up 3% from the previous week. But that value was 11% lower than the five-year average benchmark, reflecting planting delays and heat stress.

Soybeans also struggle in the heat

Soybean ratings also a larger than expected hit in yesterday’s Crop Progress report, dropping 2% on the week to end the week of July 3 with 63% of the crop in good to excellent condition. While the trade had been expecting a range between 62%-65%, the average pre-report guess of 64% meant that the price reaction to yesterday’s report was largely bullish for soybean prices this morning.

U.S. soybean conditions

Since soybean condition reporting began a month ago, crop ratings have fallen 7%. The three-week slide is the longest consecutive series of condition downgrades since the derecho wind event in August of 2020. FFTF participants largely rated the soybean crop to be in fair condition.

Crop development continues to nip at the heels of the five-year average benchmarks as the soybean crop battles heat stress and dry weather following a slower than expected start to the season. Plants are beginning to enter peak reproductive stages as the last of the double crop rotations are planted, with 16% of the crop blooming as of July 3, up 9% from the previous week, but still 6% behind the five-year average.

Farm Futures Feedback from the Field soybean responses map

FFTF participants echoed the need for rain for soybean crops, with more significant observations regarding crop development issues due to the heat compared to corn crops.

  • “Harvesting wheat and planting double crop beans right now, need rain to move these along,” shared a Kentucky grower.

  • “We have been in a drought area since mid-2021,” lamented a Nebraska soybean producer.

  • “All of our beans had to be replanted because of freeze the last week of May,” reported another Nebraska soybean grower.

  • “Soybeans look better than the corn but for how long, who knows,” cautioned an Ohio farmer.

  • ” They are all double crop just planted, waiting on moisture. Beans will just sit there waiting for rain to germinate, with each passing day yield potential is dropping,” worried another Kentucky producer.

  • “Very short plants,” observed a central Illinois farmer of local soybean crops.

USDA reported pod setting progress for the first time in the crop year in yesterday’s report, finding 3% of the crop to have already set pods as of Sunday, perfectly in line with the five-year average. States in the Mississippi River Delta continue to take the lead in crop development, though it appears later planted crops in the Midwest are not far behind.

Wheat harvest progresses

Winter wheat growers across the country are not taking dry weather for granted when it comes to harvest progress this year, even if their other crops could use a good drink ahead of peak reproductive phases. Through the week ending July 3, 54% of the nation’s winter wheat crop had been harvested, up 13% from the previous week and 6% ahead of the five-year average for the same reporting period.

One FFTF producer in Kentucky had 25% of their farm’s winter wheat crop harvested last week but was optimistic about yields so far. “Making 85-90 bushels to the acre,” the grower noted.

A Nebraska grower was not as lucky. “The only good wheat we have is irrigated,” the farmers shared, with little optimism for yield potential. “Our dry land wheat is turning white and may not finish without rain soon.”

“There will be very little wheat left to harvest in the Nebraska panhandle because of drought and barley yellow dwarf disease that is taking wheat in several counties! I could not believe how bad it looked in Banner and Kimball counties plus southeast Wyoming.”

Farm Futures Feedback from the Field wheat harvest responses

With the exception of the Northern Plains, the Pacific Northwest, California, and North Carolina, winter wheat harvest progress is substantially ahead historical paces across the interior of the country. The markets were expecting yesterday’s report to show more advanced progress, however.

The pre-report analyst range pegged the total at 53%-61% with an average estimate of 57%. USDA’s reading came in three points below that value, contributing to some of the winter wheat market’s price appreciation this morning.

Spring wheat surprise

The analysts had forecast weekly spring wheat condition ratings at 56%-62% good to excellent with an average guess of 59% good to excellent through the week ending July 3. USDA reported spring wheat conditions in the Northern Plains to be at 66% good to excellent – a massive 7% improvement from last week’s report and far exceeding the pre-report estimations.

That is a key reason why spring wheat prices are not trading near as high as its winter wheat counterparts in Chicago and Kansas City this morning.

“I’ve seen better years,” observed an Idaho spring wheat producer in the FFTF responses. “But it will be about average this year.”

Weather forecast remains hopeful

Heavy holiday weekend showers are likely to persist through the upcoming weekend. Anecdotal reports of crop damage in the Upper Midwest – especially in South Dakota – have already been gathered by our team following last night’s storms.

The extra moisture will be well-received across the Corn Belt but an collateral damage from wind could revive supply concerns and help push prices higher, despite broad economic selloffs as of late.

NOAA’s 6- to 10-day and 8- to 14-day forecasts updated this continue to trend on the warm side for the Heartland during the second week of July. While the chances for rain in the Upper Midwest are growing increasingly slim, above average precipitation forecasts are being predicted for the Southern Plains and Southeast.

But that’s not all bad news – that is right around the time that corn pollination will begin so the dry weather will actually be a welcome weather event for corn growers across the country. Of course, that condition will only be met if the Midwest receives substantial rainfall this week and no other unfortunate weather events during peak pollination.


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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