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USDA: Corn, soybean ratings slide despite improved conditions

Agriculture.com Staff 07/23/2007 @ 3:44pm

Much-needed rain fell in some parts of the Corn Belt that needed it in the last week.

But, as eyes continue to scan the sky for rain clouds around the Midwest, last week's moisture and subsequently improved growing conditions weren't enough to improve overall corn and soybean ratings posted in Monday's USDA-NASS Crop Progress report.

Both corn and soybean ratings -- contrary to what forecasters and market-watchers anticipated ahead of the report -- saw slight quality declines in the last week, according to Monday's report. One CBOT floor manager, according to a Dow Jones Newswires report, said before the numbers were released, he expected overall ratings to rise by one to two percentage points.

Contrarily, corn conditions showed an unexpected modest slip in quality: Monday's report shows 62% of the nation's corn crop is in good to excellent condition, down from 64% the previous week. In the same time frame, poor- to fair-rated corn rose by two percent from 32% to 35%.

A similar trend unfolded for soybean conditions in the last week, according to Monday's report. As of Sunday, 61% of the nation's bean crop is in good to excellent conditions, down one percent from a week ago but still hovering a few percentage points above the previous five-year average. A one-percent bump in poor-to-fair soybeans was noted.

Despite the slip in overall crop conditions, corn and soybean development continues well ahead of the average pace. As of Sunday, 78% of the nation's corn had pollinated compared to the 62% previous five-year average. Soybean pod-setting is six percent ahead of the average pace at 30%.

While the slip in crop ratings despite improved weather conditions countered what some forecasters saw ahead of Monday's NASS report, eyes will remain turned to the sky in the next week, as moisture will be key to how crop conditions develop in the next seven days.

"The National Weather Service six- to 10-day outlook suggests temperatures will be warmer and precipitation lighter than usual. And, while Dynamic Predictables sees about seasonal moisture across the Corn Belt for August, there are some sections of western Nebraska, northern Iowa and southern Minnesota that could be drier," says Dynamic Predictables meteorologist Al Peterlin. "Heat is another concern as Dynamic Predictables sees warmer than usual temperatures across Illinois, Indiana and Ohio."

How this forecast unfolds in the near term, according to Agriculture Online Marketing Talk discussion group poster GoredHusker, will be crucial to how the corn crop fills the bins this fall.

"There are enough problem areas out there this year that I think a 160-bushel-per-acre-plus national average can be thrown out the window," GoredHusker writes. "However, I still believe we're in the low- to mid-150s at this time. I think the top end has been taken off, but rain could salvage what we have. We may end up in the 140s when it's all said and done.

"But, so far I don't think the weather has been that threatening to date."

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