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Early yield prospects modest despite mostly benign weather

Weather across the U.S. Corn Belt so far this season has been less worrisome overall than in past years, though Crop Watch producers have taken a relatively conservative view on yield potential because of various challenges since planting.

That includes the wet spring weather that hampered corn emergence, and a handful of the Crop Watch corn fields are still uneven as a result. Overly cool, cloudy and wet weather has held crops back in some northern and western areas.

Remnants of Tropical Storm Beryl could bring a midweek deluge to parts of Illinois, Indiana and Ohio, though the rest of the Corn Belt is likely to stay on the drier side, which combined with moderate to warm temperatures, is a largely favorable outlook.

Many of the Crop Watch corn fields will be pollinating within the next two weeks, and this would be a critical time to have ideal weather. Most Crop Watch soybeans are flowering, but very few have begun setting pods.

Crop Watch producers have been assigning condition scores to their fields each week on a 1-to-5 scale, similar to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s system where 1 is very poor, 3 is average and 5 is excellent.

They will continue to rate condition, which is mostly a visual assessment, but now they have added yield scores, also on a 1-to-5 scale. These reflect the producers’ best guess of current yield potential where 3 is around farm average, 4 is solidly above average and 5 is among the best crops ever.

The unweighted, average corn yield starts at 3.34, the lowest for the week since the 11-field Crop Watch format began in 2021. This week’s yield had spanned 3.86 to 4.07 in the prior three years, and the finals landed at 3.82 in 2023, 3.57 in 2022 and 3.86 in 2021.

The best corn yield scores are in the I-states with western Iowa and Indiana at perfect 5s. Eastern Iowa is at a 4 and Minnesota, Kansas and Illinois all have corn yield ratings in the 3-range. Ohio corn is the lowest at a 2 because of very sparse rain in the last few weeks, but this is not necessarily representative of a widespread area.

The 11-field soybean yield starts at 3.57, also Crop Watch’s lowest for the week since at least 2021. The week’s scores spanned 3.68 (2022) to 4.07 (2023), and 2021 had the highest final yield at 3.89. Last year’s final yield was 3.5 and in 2022 it was 3.64.

Indiana is the only soy yield at 5, though Ohio, both Illinois locations and western Iowa sit in the 4-range. The lowest are North Dakota, Minnesota and Nebraska, all in the 2-range.

Although the starting 2024 soy yield is similar to the 2023 final, producers in the I-states are more optimistic about this year’s prospects versus last year’s, though it is the other way around for northern and western locations plus Ohio.

The week’s average condition scores are higher than the yield potential, indicating that producers are not confident that the crop visually reflects yield-limiting hardships since planting.

Average corn conditions rose to 3.57 from 3.5 in the prior week as a large drop in Ohio and trim in South Dakota were offset by bumps in Nebraska, western Iowa and Indiana, and a large jump in southeastern Illinois, where “million-dollar rains” fell on Thursday.

Average soybean conditions dropped to 3.75 from 3.8 as larger reductions in eastern Iowa, Ohio and South Dakota outweighed gains in southeastern Illinois, western Iowa, Nebraska and North Dakota.

Some producer quotes for the week include western Iowa: “Never have I seen a better corn crop.” There is more cautious optimism in Kansas: “Things look good, but not amazing.”

Despite the struggles with Ohio corn, the beans there have received some rain and the producer is pleased: “flower set looks amazing and early pods look impressive.”

The following are the states and counties of the 2024 Crop Watch corn and soybean fields: Kingsbury, South Dakota; Freeborn, Minnesota; Burt, Nebraska; Rice, Kansas; Audubon, Iowa; Cedar, Iowa; Warren, Illinois; Crawford, Illinois; Tippecanoe, Indiana; Fairfield, Ohio. The North Dakota soybeans are in Griggs County and the corn is in Stutsman County.
Source: Reuters (Reporting by Karen Braun, Editing by Matthew Lewis)

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