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USDA: Corn conditions decline; wheat harvest moving slowly

Agriculture.com Staff 06/18/2007 @ 2:49pm

The two factors thought to be driving the commodities markets -- poor wheat conditions and slow harvest and a developing drought in the central and eastern Corn Belt -- were confirmed in Monday's USDA-NASS Crop Progress report.

Forty-six percent of Illinois' crop and 43% of Indiana's corn is rated in good condition, both lagging behind the 53% good rating nationwide. Corn conditions continued to decline in Ohio as well, where 55% of the crop is in good to excellent condition.

Still, the corn crop in some of the more stressed areas of the Corn Belt may not be mortally wounded just yet. "Dry weather and dry soils have not greatly decreased the prospects for the corn crop so far," University of Illinois Extension agronomist Emerson Nafziger said of his state's crop late last week. "The remarkable ability of corn to take up water from deep in the soil, and the ability of most Illinois soils to store water, means that short-term dryness tends to have minimal effects on yield."

However, Monday's report noted even sharper drought-driven corn declines in southeastern states. In Tennessee, only 18% of the crop is in good to excellent shape versus 82% in very poor to fair shape.

By Sunday, 11% of the nation's winter wheat was harvested, well behind the 20% five-year average last year's progress at this point of 34%. Monday's report shows harvest has yet to begin in much further north than the Oklahoma-Kansas border, as 41% of Oklahoma's wheat has been harvested compared to two percent of the Kansas crop.

"I would guess around here, it will be the middle of the week when combines will be rolling, maybe the first part of the week," according to Brookville, Kansas, wheat grower Joe Kejr.

Wheat conditions moved very little in the past seven days: Overall, 50% of the crop is in good to excellent shape compared to last week's 52%. Kejr's expectations for the wheat crop in his state -- which bore the brunt of a late spring freeze, flooding and excessive disease and pest pressures -- aren't too high.

"I heard from a farmer who'd cut a bit in south-central Kansas, and the first load he took in had a 40-pound test weight. The elevator said they didn't want any more loads like that," Kejr says. "That's how it will be around here. We'll have poor test weights. A lot of this wheat will be in the teens, yield-wise. I hope I'm wrong."

The two factors thought to be driving the commodities markets -- poor wheat conditions and slow harvest and a developing drought in the central and eastern Corn Belt -- were confirmed in Monday's USDA-NASS Crop Progress report.

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