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Crop yield projections sink as flood waters rise

Agriculture.com Staff 06/10/2008 @ 11:16am

The rains that continue to drench the nation's major corn- and soybean-producing regions are now seen taking a growing bite out of this year's projected corn output.

In its monthly Supply/Demand report, USDA cut its per-acre yield estimate by five bushels per acre from the previous month. The agency expects the corn crop to average 148.9 bushels per acre; if realized, this lowered yield tally would result in an 11.7-billion-bushel crop compared to the previous month's 12.13-billion-bushel estimate.

In its tally of projected soybean production Tuesday, USDA left the May numbers alone. The agency still expects a 3.1-billion-bushel crop on 73.8 million acres with an average yield of 42.1 bushels per acre.

How do these numbers correspond with what farmers say they're finding in their fields? In a new Agriculture Online Poll, more than 80% of those farmers responding say at least some of their row crop acres will suffer a yield loss because of this spring's midwestern deluge. Almost one quarter of those responding say all of their acres will see a yield drag because of the excess moisture, more of which was forecast for this week in the Corn Belt.

"In west-central Indiana, every field I have, and all my neighbors' fields have either standing water or severe washes on them," writes Agriculture Online Crop Talk member jkaahend. "That is not a 100% reduction in total yield, but 100% of my fields have some percentage of a reduction."

But, yield losses under development right now may not be limited to seeds already sown. According to Charlie Notis of Freese-Notis Weather, Inc., in Des Moines, Iowa, the rains have been hitting consistently enough to delay planting altogether, meaning much of the ground now covered in water has yet to see planter tracks this spring.

"Though vast amounts of crop land in the Midwest are under water right now, data released on Monday again highlighted the fact that a significant part of that water covers crop land that does not yet have a crop planted underneath it. At a time when U.S. farmers are normally putting away the planters for the year, this year we still have 23% of the soybean crop left to seed," Notis says. "Given how incredibly wet the Corn Belt is right now and given considerable rain that is expected for the rest of this work-week period, it is obvious that very limited amounts of additional crop progress will be made in time for next week's numbers. My guess is that we would still have more than 15% of the national soybean crop left to plant."

That latter number, Notis adds, is compared to six percent of the nation's soybean crop that typically remains unplanted by this week of the season.

Looking ahead, the numbers lowered in Tuesday's USDA Supply/Demand report could see fuel for another round of cuts later this week, as even more rain moves into the Midwest. Add to that cooler temperatures and crop concerns could become dire in the coming week to 10 days, says Chicago-based ag meteorologist with QT Weather, Allen Motew.

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