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'Shrinking crops keep shrinking'

Agriculture.com Staff 09/12/2008 @ 9:52am

Are Friday's USDA estimates for the crops -- which may signal even further crop condition deterioration in next month's Crop Production report -- in line with what farmers are seeing out their back doors?

A lot has yet to be resolved with this year's corn and soybean crops. They're behind in development, so much so that analysts expect USDA's October Crop Production report to mirror what's typically found in the September numbers. Still, Friday's numbers were what many expected.

"I think they're what the people on the ground had feared and suspected: This crop is not getting bigger, it's getting smaller," says Don Roose of U.S. Commodities in West Des Moines, Iowa. "Wet weather and denitrification are taking a toll on the corn, and a dry August took a toll on the soybeans. Big crops get bigger, and shrinking crops keep shrinking."

Still, Friday's lower numbers are a comfort of sort to some farmers. Agriculture Online Marketing Talk member jkaahend says he faced some of the toughest conditions early on in the summer, and just based on the yield loss he'll tally when the trucks go across the scale, a cutting of yield estimates was correct.

"I'm in an area that received some of the worst of the June flooding, and my corn yields will be a full 50 bushels per acre less than last year. So, I'm glad to see the USDA recognize that the yields are turning lower," jkaahend writes. "I believe the real impact will come when they realize harvested acres will come way down. Much of the late-planted corn in this area will not make even nominal yields regardless of the frost date."

Others agree, especially when it comes to the soybean crop. Bean yields are made in August, and conditions last month were anything but favorable in many areas for the crop's development. These conditions -- though reflected to some degree in Friday's 40.0-bushel-per-acre yield estimate on the crop overall -- could loom larger in USDA's October Crop Production numbers.

"Even though there was rain in the last week of August and the first week of September, if you take 25 cities in the Midwest from August to September, there was almost no rain," says David Hightower, analyst and director of the Hightower Report. "The big question now is did those pods at the top of the plant even fill out? That plant was doing well, but in the tail end of the growing season, we may have nipped it.

"I'm not predicting 39-bushel beans, but we might see it come down in the next report."

It's not just pod fill, but pod count that could weigh on bean yield numbers next month as well, says Greg Wagner of AgResource Company in Chicago. This could make it more likely to reach that 39-bushel mark. "The pod counts are substantially below where they were last year in surveyed states," he says. "The idea that the pods will fill out and we'll get all the yield, USDA says, is questionable. We'll see sub-40-bushel yields."

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