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Catching up: Corn, soybean crops continue to improve

Agriculture.com Staff 07/28/2008 @ 2:39pm

Monday's USDA Crop Progress report continued a weeks-long trend of upward-inching crop conditions: For the fifth week in a row, the report, as traders expected, shows slight improvements in the nation's corn and soybean crops. They're still behind normal in terms of developmental pace, but in general, the game of catch-up is on.

Monday's weekly report of crop conditions shows 66% of the nation's corn crop is in good-to-excellent shape. That's up one percent from a week ago and eight percent higher than this week a year ago. Virtually the same is true for the nation's soybean crop. As of Sunday, 62% was in good-to-excellent condition, also up one percent from a week ago and four percent higher than last year at this time.

"We've seen gains for the past four weeks, but are well aware that ratings have usually started to slide by this point in time in a 'normal' year," says Cargill senior grain merchandiser in Eddyville, Iowa, Ray Jenkins. "But, we also know this is anything but a normal year,"

Just as corn and soybean conditions have caught up, so too has winter wheat harvest progress. As of Sunday, 87% of the crop is in the bin: That's one percent higher than the previous five-year average.

Farmers say that, in some areas, it appears row crops have bounced back -- almost -- from an early spring fraught with challenges.

"There will be a big crop in the western Corn Belt if we have a late fall," says Agriculture Online Marketing Talk member Don NMO. The northern Missouri farmer says he drove throughout the western Corn Belt in recent days, and he says once he got north of the areas of northern Missouri and southern Iowa where severe weather and monstrous rainfall amounts have damaged crops, the corn and beans look "decent but on the late side other than central Iowa, where things looked about normal to me."

Some parts of southern Iowa and northern Missouri have received around two feet of rain since June 1, according to QT Weather ag meteorologist Allen Motew.

But, Don NMO's estimation of an improving crop is shared by other farmers. Marketing Talk member swmnfarmer says his expectations have changed greatly as the summer weather has turned favorable for the corn and soybean crops in his area. With one condition: If Mother Nature can hold off on the first freeze of the fall until the normal timeframe or later.

"I'm going to sound like a crazy man here, but I just drove from southwest Minnesota to Duluth, and if we get a couple of timely rains and it doesn't freeze until the first of October, Minnesota could have record yields," swmnfarmer says. "I know it sounds crazy, but that's the way it looks to me."

Further south and west, Nebraska crop-watchers are watching the corn crop catch up to normal, both in terms of crop quality and development.

"It feels good to see the corn tasseled and shedding some pollen. We're getting back on track," says University of Nebraska (UNL) Extension educator in Hamilton County, Nebraska, Jim Schneider.

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