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CROP PROGRESS: Corn harvest off to slow start

Corn harvest starts but running behind five-year average.

By Ben Potter

According to the latest crop progress report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, corn crop conditions are a carbon copy of last week, with 61% of the crop rated good to excellent. Even so, the corn crop is being a bit of a slowpoke – lagging behind the five-year average when it comes to percent of mature crop and percent harvested.

For the week ending Sept. 17, 86% of the corn crop was dented, compared to 92% a year ago and 90% for the five-year average, according to USDA. Corn maturity is up to 34% -- well behind last year’s total of 50% and the five-year average of 47%. Harvest is now 17% completed versus 8% in 2016 and 11% for the five-year average.

The majority of the 2017 corn crop continues to be rated good to excellent. Only 13% of the crop is rated poor to very poor, and multiple states boast 80% or more of the crop rated good to excellent, including Pennsylvania (91%), Tennessee (87%), Wisconsin (80%), Kentucky (83%) and Minnesota (81%).

Still, Monday’s crop progress report confirmed this week’s Vegetation Health Index maps, which have hinted at declining conditions that can be hard to judge when crops are maturing, according to Farm Futures senior grain market analyst Bryce Knorr.

“Our forecasts based on both the national rating of the soybean crop and state-by-state conditions showed declines, with the average of the two methods down about .015 of 1 bu. per acre (bpa),” he said. “The state model projected a U.S. corn yield down to 163.9 bpa, while the rating based on USDA’s national rating was unchanged at 165.6 bpa. Those compare to USDA’s Sept. 12 estimate of 169.9 bpa.”

Knorr said the corn yield potential in Illinois has suffered significantly, according to these assessments – by as much as 3.1 bpa, dropping to 173.2 bpa.

“That matches some of the anecdotal comments we’re hearing from farmers,” he said. “Soybean yields were down in both Iowa and Illinois, offsetting gains in some smaller producing states.”

For a second straight week, nationwide soybean ratings slipped 1%, moving the good-to-excellent totals from 60% to 59%. Another 29% of the crop is rated fair, with the remaining 12% rated poor or very poor.

In the meantime, the soybean crop is approaching maturity. A total of 41% of the crop is dropping leaves, up from 22% a week ago but still slightly behind 2016 and the five-year average of 43%. Harvest has just begun. At 4% completed, that’s in line with a year ago (4%) and the five-year average (5%).

Spring wheat is now 95% harvested, ahead of the five-year average of 87%. Idaho, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota are all slightly ahead of schedule, with Washington slightly behind.

Planting of the 2017-18 winter wheat crop continues. Up to 13% of the crop is now in the ground, compared to 5% last week. The 2016 pace and the five-year average are both 15%.

The 2017 sorghum harvest is up to 29% completed, which is identical to the pace set in 2016 and in line with the five-year average.

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