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USDA: Crop conditions stable, widely varied

Agriculture.com Staff 07/20/2009 @ 3:00pm

Overall progress for the nation's corn and soybean crops remains behind the normal pace by double digits. Despite the lag in development, conditions have stabilized in general, according to Monday's USDA Crop Progress report.

As of Sunday, 67% of the nation's soybean crop and 71% of the corn crop is in good to excellent condition, according to Monday's report. These numbers, unchanged from a week ago, come despite overall corn development progress that's 23% behind normal and an 18% lag in soybean blooming, Monday's numbers show.

"Weather conditions have been viewed as generally favorable for both corn and soybeans," says University of Illinois Extension ag economist Darrel Good. "Extreme heat has remained south and west of major production areas, with the Midwest experiencing generally below-normal temperatures in July. Moisture concerns are minimal. Overall crop condition ratings are relatively high."

The highest crop ratings remain generally in the western Corn Belt. A year ago, 64 percent of the corn crop and 59 percent of the soybean crop was rated in good or excellent condition. Might the stabilization of crop conditions right now bide well for crop output this fall?

"There is an extremely high correlation between the percent of the corn crop rated good or excellent at the end of the season and the U.S. average trend adjusted yield," Good says. "Our crop weather model forecasts a U.S. average yield of 161.9 bushels if growing conditions through August are very favorable. The yield expectations based on current crop ratings or the assumption of favorable weather for the rest of the season are well above the long-term trend calculation for 2009 of 154.9 bushels per acre."

One look at numbers in the central and eastern Corn Belt paint a different yield projection picture. In Illinois, for example, Monday's USDA report shows just over one quarter of the state's corn crop silking versus the average at this point in the year of 80%. Iowa's 26% figure is almost half the average pace. Only 5% of Michigan's crop is silking compared to the previous 5-year average of 34%.

After a recent windshield tour of a good chunk of corn and soybean country, Agriculture Online Marketing Talk member RichILL says things look "very good" in Nebraska and western Iowa, but things change the further east he got.

"Out of all of the trip I would say Iowa looks the best followed by Nebraska. Central part of Iowa looked the best and furthest in progress. Going into eastern Iowa some stress spots appeared from spring. Crops weren't as far along but still looked very good," he says. "Going closer to Peoria, some unevenness in plant height starts to become somewhat apparent. East of Peoria progress is behind for the calender. Looks to be a long pollination period with very few tassels showing. Plant height for corn and beans is more uneven between fields but seemed consistent within the fields."

Despite this kind of variability, one thing's sure in his home state, RichILL adds: No matter what the numbers say now about how the crops are progressing, it's still too hard to tell whether this year's projected yields will be achieved.

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