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Satellite imagery firm expected lower crop forecast

Agriculture.com Staff 10/13/2007 @ 7:00am

Most analysts were looking for an increase in corn production in the USDA's Supply-Demand estimate released Friday, but a forecasting business that uses satellite imagery was among the few that looked for a decrease.

Lanworth, Inc, which started in business in 2000 monitoring forestry, now tracks agricultural production as well. On Monday it forecast a drop of 200 million bushels in U.S. corn production, to 13.11 billion bushels.

It overshot a bit. USDA's number Friday was 13.38 billion bushels, which surprised the trade. The average estimate called for an increase in the crop size from last month's USDA number of 13.31 billion bushels, up to 13.46 billion. USDA increased its estimate of planted acres by 700,000 from the September report, to 86.1 million acres. It cut the yield estimate by about one bushel an acre, to 154.7 bushels an acre. Its October estimate of production was 13.318 billion bushels, up slightly from September.

"To most forecasters, the report took them by surprise. We saw it coming," said Nick Kouchoukos, director of information services for Lanworth.

"This is a very good corn year, there's no doubt about it, but there's a lot of variability due to drought and late planting in certain areas," Kouchoukos said.

Lanworth expects a further cut in estimated yields in the November report.

Lanworth's estimate for soybean production was almost on target. It expected today's report to peg the crop at 2.58 billion bushels. The report dropped the USDA production estimate from 2.62 billion last month to 2.598 billion bushels. All of that reduction came from lowering the USDA estimate of harvested acres by 500,000. Yields were not lowered, remaining at 41.4 bushels an acre.

Kouchoukos said Lanworth expected a lower yield, due to drought in the Southeast.

To make its forecasts, Lanworth uses publicly available NASA satellite imagery as well as USDA maps of soil types and farm fields to determine crop acreage. It uses crop growth models and field checks by its agronomists to determine yield potential.

The company website is:
www.lanworth.com

Most analysts were looking for an increase in corn production in the USDA's Supply-Demand estimate released Friday, but a forecasting business that uses satellite imagery was among the few that looked for a decrease.

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