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Drought concerns eyed for the Corn Belt, analyst says

Initial heat will benefit corn and soybeans.

U.S. grain markets have perked up a bit lately, helped by more aggressive Chinese purchases of U.S. soybeans and concerns over the 2020 crop.  

Crop Weather

Drought concerns have been renewed with a hot/dry forecast for the western Corn Belt the next two weeks. Even the eastern Corn Belt is threatened with heat.  

Weather forecasts have continued the improved chances for rain in the eastern Corn Belt, with the eight- to 14-day forecast calling for above-normal precipitation in that area now. However, the western Corn Belt will see below-normal precip for the entire 14-day forecast, with above-normal temps (hot and dry). The heat will also occur in the east, but the improved precip chances keep the crop outlook decent.  

There is virtually no organized rain system today in the Corn Belt.     

Crop Progress 

Crops are developing and planting continuing, with corn 93% planted (4% ahead of normal), with soybeans 75% planted (7% ahead).  

Corn conditions improved 4% to 74% G/E, with corn yield models rising nearly 2 bu to 177 – 2 bu above trend. Yet, winter wheat went the other way, with conditions down 3% to 51% G/E, and the yield model dropping 0.279 bushels per acre to 51.29 bu, still about 0.5 bu/acre above trend.  

The heat that’s coming may not damage corn and wheat much given high soil moisture conditions in the Corn Belt, but it could still significantly damage soybean yields if soil moisture is depleted by the time pod filling comes.  

Soybean crop conditions came out for the first time this week, with a 70% rating in G/E. However, the yield model is right at trend yields, which is about 0.6 bu/acre below USDA’s number. So, they are too high for a yield estimate given this crop. Bullish soybeans?  

HRS wheat is 91% planted (5% behind), but a significant amount of acreage has also been abandoned – especially in North Dakota.  

Also, almost none of the 50% of 2019 corn left out (unharvested) all winter will get planted as it’s not drying up quickly enough. So ironically, while some soils are drying out due to lack of rain in ND, others covered by corn trash still haven’t dried enough to plant. That’s why it is so important in this cold environment of ND to get soils worked in the fall – and that wasn’t possible in 2019.  

So, prevent-plant acres will be relatively large in ND (the state with the second-largest number of tillable acres) – especially corn ground.  

HRS wheat that got planted is rated relatively high: 80% G/E vs. 74% last year at this time. Barley conditions are not, however, with only 69% rated G/E vs. 88% last year.  84% of U.S. topsoil and 85% of subsoil is still rated adequate/surplus, down 2% from last week but still about 5% below last year.  

Soil moisture ratings are still high, so initial heat will probably benefit corn and soybean crops to get them to grow. But the rapid depletion of soil moisture could haunt soybeans come pod-fill in August.   

Ray can be reached at raygrabanski@progressiveag.com.  
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Ray is President of Progressive Ag Marketing, Inc., a top Ranked marketing firm in the country.   

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