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Farmers advance corn, soy harvest

10/09/2012 @ 4:35pm

Farmers had little trouble advancing the U.S. corn and soybean harvests last week, aided by generally dry weather.

Farmers have removed 69% of the corn crop and 58% of the soybean crop as of Sunday, according to the weekly crop-progress report Tuesday from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The figures are higher than usual for this time of year, though progress last week trailed some analysts' expectations.

Winter wheat plantings, meanwhile, are climbing, benefiting from recent moisture in the southern plains.

The soybean harvest advanced by 17 percentage points, as farmers enjoyed weather that was "extremely" conducive to harvest activity, said Sterling Smith, futures specialist with Citigroup Global Markets Inc. in Chicago.

Traders had expected the soybean harvest to be about 62% to 68% complete and the corn harvest to be about 68% to 75% finished.

Farmers were in a hurry to harvest soybeans, as the crop is more susceptible to field losses from cold, wet conditions than corn, Mr. Smith said.

"Producers definitely want to avoid any field losses with bean prices at historic highs," said Shawn McCambridge, senior grains analyst with Jefferies Bache in Chicago.

Farmers in the western Midwest advanced harvests more than their counterparts in the east, as rains slowed some field operations.

In Iowa, the soybean harvest is 80% complete, above the five-year average of 49% at this time of year. In Minnesota, the harvest is 95% complete, 40 percentage points above average.

Iowa and Minnesota rank No. 1 and No. 3, respectively, in soybean production in the U.S.

Meanwhile, 93% of the soybean crop was dropping leaves as of Sunday, which is five percentage points above normal. Dropping leaves is a sign of maturity for soy crops.

The report showed that the corn harvest advanced 15 percentage points from the previous week-long period.

Both crops are being harvested sooner than usual this year, thanks to early planting that stemmed from a mild spring.

Nationally, the corn crop is 97% mature, up from 94% last week and above the five-year average of 84%, the USDA said.

Farmers in states such as Kansas continue to move forward with the planting of winter wheat for harvest next spring and summer. The crop was 57% planted through Sunday, which is two percentage points behind normal.

Winter wheat plantings are moving along, but the crops will still need some good moisture for development before the crops head into dormancy during winter, Mr. McCambridge said.

"Concerns about cold, wet weather in the eastern Midwest, particularly Ohio, could reduce some soft red winter wheat plantings there," Mr. McCambridge said.

The USDA said 19% of the Ohio crops are seeded, 13 percentage points below average for this time of year. Only 2% of Ohio crops have emerged, three percentage points below average.

The USDA reported that 23% of the U.S. winter-wheat crop has emerged, or seven percentage points below the five-year average.

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