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Crops steady despite slow pace -- USDA

Jeff Caldwell 07/29/2013 @ 3:28pm Multimedia Editor for Agriculture.com and Successful Farming magazine.

Corn conditions generally remained unchanged as the crop entered the dough stage in the last week among rising anxieties among farmers about whether or not it's going to be too little too late as cooler weather stokes fears that the crop won't be ready to go by the time the first frost rolls around this fall.

Monday's USDA Crop Progress report shows that as of Sunday, 8% of the corn crop's entered the dough stage, 9% behind the normal schedule. Conditions are largely unchanged on a national basis, with 63% of the crop in good or excellent condition and 11% in very poor or poor shape.

Monday's report shows soybean conditions dipped just 1% from the previous week, with 63% in good or excellent condition. Pod-setting, though 14% behind the normal pace, jumped by 12% in the last week, from 8% to 20%. Last year at this time, just over half of the soybean crop had set pods.

"The cooler weather is nice reprieve and reduces stress on both crops and livestock, but the crop remains behind so we continue to need warm weather to help advance maturity," says Iowa ag secretary Bill Northey.  "Much of the state could still use some rain as corn can use over an inch of moisture each week during this part of the growing season."

There are major doubts in farm country about the current shape of the crop, though, more so regarding development than quality overall. Though some say they're a couple of inches of rain away from a sharp yield potential decline, it's the pace at which the crop is growing -- a slow one with cooler-than-normal temperatures dominating this week -- that could be the ultimate culprit if the crop's cut way short.

"Right now, if we were to get a nice rain, I think we could still yield in the 160- to 170-bushel range. We need a couple inches of rain for that to materialize," says Agriculture.com Marketing Talk frequent contributor weedman, who says he farms in west-central and southwest Iowa. "That is the common theme in our area. If we don't get rain, we could be in the 80- to 100-bushel range shortly. Some of our corn is just now pollinating."

On a wider scale, it's temperature that's got more to do with yield potential entering August, forecasters say. In the next week, temperatures are going to be cooler than normal, keeping growing degree day (GDD) accumulations south of where they need to be, says MDA Weather Services senior ag meteorologist Don Keeney. That will have to improve to avoid another major setback for a crop that's already behind pace.

"Since this will push the crops further behind, this does raise the concerns for the crops to be hit with frost prior to maturity," Keeney says. "Right now we're not expecting a very early frost, but even with a normal frost, this would still cause concerns."

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