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CROP PROGRESS: Can corn catch up?

Corn harvest started but a little bit behind five-year average.

By Ben Potter

The 2017 corn harvest started slower than average, but warmer-than-normal temperatures across the Midwest for the past few weeks have led to plenty of speculation that the pace of harvest might have a chance to catch up to seasonal averages. Would the U.S. Department of Agriculture's latest "Crop Progress" report results validate that assumption?

For the week ending Sept. 24, USDA indicated that the corn crop is still a bit behind. Crop maturity came in at 51%, compared to 70% in 2016 and 64% for the five-year average. Harvest progress came in at just 11%, lower than the trade estimate of 14%, the 2016 pace of 14% and the five-year average of 17%. Harvest is furthest along in North Carolina, Texas, Tennessee, Kentucky and Missouri (in that order).

The overall percentage of the corn crop rated good to excellent this year remains unchanged at 61%, although good-rated corn slipped from 48% to 47%, and excellent-rated corn bumped up from 13% to 14%.

“Our estimate of corn yields gained 0.4% bu. per acre (bpa), with both nationwide and state-by-state ratings improving,” according to Farm Futures senior grain market analyst Bryce Knorr. “State ratings suggest a yield of 164.3 bpa, with the nationwide tally at 166.1 bpa.”

After soybean ratings dropped slightly for two straight weeks, conditions reversed that trend for the week ending Sept. 24. Now, 60% of the crop is rated good to excellent, versus 59% one week prior. Only 12% of the crop is rated poor or very poor, with the remaining 29% rated fair.

Unlike corn, the soybean crop’s harvest progress is more in line with seasonal averages. This year’s crop is 10% harvested, compared with 9% in 2016 and 12% for the five-year average. Harvest has progressed furthest in Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Indiana and Nebraska (in that order).

“Just like corn, soybeans also showed modest gains, up about a 10th of a bushel per acre overall,” Knorr said. “Our estimate based on the national rating is 48.3 bpa, with the state-by-state report showing a yield at 47.1 bpa.”

The 2017-18 winter wheat crop is now nearly one-quarter planted, at 24%. That’s slightly behind the 2016 pace and the five-year average, which are both 28%.

Sorghum harvest also continues to make slow-but-steady progress. For the week ending Sept. 24, the harvest was 32% completed -- in line with 2016 and the five year average, which are both 33%. Sixty-four percent of that crop is rated good to excellent, down 1% from the prior week.

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