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First freeze too soon for late-planted regions

Corn maturity percentage in some states halfway behind five-year average.

Prior to the first full week of October, the first fall freeze had been limited to portions of North Dakota and northern Minnesota, and even though the freeze was later than normal, Planalytics said it was still too soon for many areas that saw a late start to the crop season due to excessive moisture last spring that led to prevented planting.

Now, a second freeze has occurred since then, hitting the rest of the Corn Belt where many crops have been very behind schedule.

According to Planalytics, a “hard freeze” – anything 28°F or below for long enough to kill plants – occurred in the western and central areas of the Corn Belt and extended east into portions of Illinois.

“While this year’s first freeze for that region is considered 'on time' based on calendar dates, we have pointed out repeatedly that even a normal onset of freeze this year would have significant implications for crops and crop yields.”

U.S. Department of Agriculture data show that Iowa, Illinois and Indiana were reporting that only 72-73% of corn had reached maturity -- weeks behind the average. Some states are extremely behind on crop progress, with North Dakota at 42%, Michigan at 44% and Wisconsin at 49%. The five-year average corn maturity for those states is typically more than 80% at this period, USDA data show. Ohio and South Dakota are only in the 50% range.

“While it will be a while before final yields for corn, soybeans and other summer crops are available, it is clear that crops in these areas took a hit this year,” Planalytics said.

Feedstuffs’ sister publication Farm Futures reported this week that USDA moved corn quality from 56% rated in good to excellent condition a week ago down to 55% for the week ending Oct. 13.

“Ratings are still following somewhat of a regional split, with parts of the eastern Corn Belt showing the lowest quality while higher ratings persist farther west and south, but some areas to the north were docked this past week,” Farm Futures reported.

“Crops in the northwest Midwest suffered last week, hurting ratings for corn and soybeans in North Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin,” Farm Futures senior grain market analyst Bryce Knorr noted. “While relatively few soybeans were at risk from the hard freeze, significant corn acreage was at risk.”

Regarding soybean quality, Farm Futures said analysts were expecting USDA to lower ratings by a point, but conditions instead improved by a point, with 54% now in good to excellent condition.

“Our state-by-state assessment was steady, but both projections based on condition reports remain well above USDA’s Oct. 10 estimate,” Knorr said. “Soybean yields appear to be holding their own, at the least, but two more weeks of wet weather could keep harvest slow, raising concerns about quality and perhaps bushels, too.”

Too little, too late

As the Corn Belt faces the implications of freezing temps, the South and East are dealing with another issue, Planalytics reported.

“From Florida to the mid-Atlantic, farmers, golf course superintendents, lawn servicing companies and others have been dealing lately with a rapid onset of moderate to severe drought -- ‘flash drought,’ as it is known,” the firm said.

It is estimated that it will take as much as 15 in. of precipitation to end the drought in the driest portions of the Southeast, Planalytics relayed.

“While fieldwork and harvest have moved along at a good pace, there is real concern about the impacts from the lack of moisture on crops as they made their final push to maturity,” Planalytics said.

Although up to 3 in. of moderate to heavy rain fell recently in the region, it came too late to make a difference.

“More is expected over the next two weeks, beginning this weekend with Potential Tropical Cyclone 16 currently in the Gulf of Mexico that could bring 2-5 in. by next week,” Planalytics said. “While this is good news from a moisture replenishment standpoint, this precipitation simply comes too late. If anything, it now plays havoc with remaining fieldwork and harvest operations.”

Meanwhile, drought-ravaged Texas will continue to be very dry over this period, putting early-season stress on emerging winter grains, Planalytics said.

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