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Rows of corn stretching as far as the eye can see. A single lone tassel sticking up. Focus is fairly shallow with main point on the tassel. txking/iStock/GettyImages

USDA crop progress: Corn, soybean quality jump unexpectedly higher

Winter wheat harvest coming in a bit more slowly than anticipated.

USDA’s latest crop progress report, covering the week through July 26, held some bearish price data for corn and soybeans. That’s because despite analysts expecting the agency to hold corn and soybean quality ratings steady from a week ago, each crop saw a three-point jump higher over the last week. Traders are likely to reevaluate production potential (that still has a fighting chance to climb above trendline yields this year), which will create serious headwinds heading into Tuesday’s session.

Corn crop quality moved from 69% rated in good-to-excellent a week ago up to 72% this past week. Another 21% of the crop is rated fair (down two points from last week), with the remaining 7% rated poor or very poor (down one point a week ago). Some of this year’s biggest so-called “garden spots” are scattered across the central U.S., and include South Dakota (86% rated good-to-excellent), Kentucky (83%) and Wisconsin (82%). Texas has had the most embattled crop of the top 18 production states this year, with 44% of that state’s crop rated in good-to-excellent condition.

Physiologically, more than four of every five acres (82%) across the country has now reached the silking stage, up from 59% a week ago. That’s well ahead of 2019’s pace of 51% and also above the prior five-year average of 75%. And 22% of the crop has reached dough stage, up from 9% a week ago. That’s double 2019’s pace of 11% and moderately ahead of the prior five-year average of 17%.

Soybean crop quality ratings also moved higher than expected, mirroring corn’s three-point boost to reach 72% rated in good-to-excellent condition. Analysts thought USDA would hold quality ratings steady this week. Another 22% of the crop is rated fair (down two points from last week), with the remaining 6% rated poor or very poor (down a point from a week ago). Individual state rankings range from Louisiana (85% rated good-to-excellent) down to North Carolina (48%).

More than three-fourths (76%) of this year’s soybean crop is now setting pods, up from 64% a week ago. This year’s pace is still far ahead of 2019’s pace of 52% and moderately faster than the prior five-year average of 72%. And 43% of the crop is setting pods, versus 2019’s pace of 17% and the prior five-year average of 36%.

Spring wheat crop quality also improved this past week, picking up two more points to reach 70% in good-to-excellent condition. Analysts thought USDA would leave quality ratings alone, at 68% rated in good-to-excellent condition a week ago. Another 24% is rated good (down a point from last week), with the remaining 6% rated poor or very poor (also down a point from a week ago).

Physiologically, 97% of the crop is headed, which is very close to 2019’s pace of 96% and the prior five-year average of 98%. Harvest has also kicked off, albeit at just 1% completion through Sunday. The prior five-year average is 3%.

The winter wheat harvest is much further along, climbing from 74% a week ago up to 81% through July 26. That’s ahead of 2019’s pace of 73% and a sliver behind the prior five-year average of 82%.

Click here to read the latest USDA crop progress report for additional data on sorghum, cotton, barley, pasture conditions and more.

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