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USDA crop progress: Winter wheat quality continues to improve

DarcyMaulsby/ThinkstockPhotos Corn flowing into grate.
Corn, soybean harvests inch closer to the finish line.

The 2018 U.S. corn and soybean harvests are nearly complete, as is planting for the 2018/19 winter wheat crop, according to the latest crop progress data from USDA. The weekly updates typically hold few surprises this time of year, but this week’s report proved to be the exception to the rule after the agency bucked analyst expectations by raising its quality ratings for winter wheat by two points to reach 56% in good-to-excellent condition.

But that number may sound better than it actually is, according to Farm Futures senior grain market analyst Bryce Knorr.

“Our forecast of yields based on the state-by-state ratings, which is weighted differently than USDA’s national conditions, showed virtually no improvement,” he says. “Still, the crop is in better shape than a year ago, with yield potential ranging from 47.7 to 50.6 bushels per acre.”

Winter wheat planting progress reached 93% complete as of November 18, up just four points from the prior week’s tally of 89%. That puts this year’s crop slightly behind 2017’s pace and the five-year average, both at 97%. Crop emergence reached 81%, which is also behind 2017’s pace of 87% and the five-year average of 88%.

Corn harvest reached 90% last week, up from the prior week’s total of 84% and mostly in line with 2017’s pace of 89% and the five-year average of 93%. USDA marked three states – Illinois, North Carolina and Tennessee – as effectively completing their 2018 corn harvests. Elsewhere in the Corn Belt, states including North Dakota (71%), Michigan (74%) and Pennsylvania (76%) still have plenty of harvest progress yet to make.

This year’s soybean harvest is also inching along, moving from 88% complete the prior week to 91% complete as of November 18. The pace remains a bit behind 2017 and the five-year average, both at 96%. Nine of the top 18 production states have progress of at least 90%, with North Carolina (58%) still with the most progress yet to make.

Other crop progress of note includes:

  • Sorghum harvest reached 80%, up from 73% the week prior.
  • Cotton harvest reached 59%, up from 54% the week prior.
  • Peanut harvest reached 86%, up from 81% the week prior


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