USDA: Corn lags while soybeans keep pace

By Aerin Einstein-Curtis

- Last updated on GMT

© iStock
© iStock

Related tags Crop Harvest Usda

Despite weather challenges and some feed crop damage, overall production is expected to meet feed demands, says analyst.

Details of feed crop growth, development and condition were released Monday by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) in the crop progress report​.

Much of the focus for feed crop production may have been on areas hit by dry weather, but some states have been seeing more of a range to their production, said Chad Hart associate professor of economics, crop markets specialist and extension economist with Iowa State University. In Iowa there has been a transition from producers with drought damaged crops to those having a good production year.

“Significant parts of the state have seen dry conditions from northwest Iowa to central Iowa, and other areas in the state corn is looking fantastic,”​ he told FeedNavigator. “When I look at national numbers I see a similar story.”

Weather has been a challenge this year, he said.

“In the end what it looks like is, despite the weather problems we’ve had on the production side, we’re still looking at very large crops being produced this year,” ​he said. “Mother Nature has thrown the kitchen sink at us – too wet in some areas, and too dry in others – but on balance we’re still producing a good crop. Production is big enough to meet the demand and that’s why we haven’t seen much of a reaction.”

Corn and soy

Corn production pace continues to lag behind last year, although it is coming closer to average production for some stages, the USDA said.

Last year about 94% of the crop, in the 18 states responsible for the majority of production, was at the corn dough stage by this point, the department said. On average, about 95% of the crop had reached that stage.

However, this year about 92% of the crop has reached the corn dough stage, the department said.

On average about 68% of the crop had reached corn dent stage by this point in the year, and last year about 74% had, said the department. About 60% of the current crop has reached that stage.

Similarly, last year about 17% of the crop was complete by this point and on average 18% is, the department said. This year about 12% of the crop has hit maturity.

Condition of the corn crop dropped slightly from last week, and continues to trail quality levels set last year, the department said. Last year about 74% of the crop earned good or excellent ratings, while this year about 61% has.

The corn crop has faced some challenges and is seeing some pollination issues, said Hart.

“Temperatures are cooler than normal and that’s good and bad for the crop,” ​he said. “It’s good because even though conditions are drying there isn’t heat stress on the crop, and it gives the crop opportunity to add weight.

“We could see grain fill be extended,” ​he added. “But it brings up concerns of will the crop reach maturity in time? Do we have to worry about the first freeze?”

That concern is building, as it appears that the corn crop maturing process may be slowing down, he said. “While the temperatures have been cooler, there hasn’t been a sign of a cold snap yet – [producers are] not getting too worried until there starts to be a big movement of colder air headed for the Corn Belt,”​ he added.

The soybean crop has been staying more consistent with the pace of maturation set in previous years, the USDA said. On average about 96% of the crop has reached the setting pods stage by this point in the year, for the 18 states responsible for the majority of the crop, and last year about 97% had.

This year, about 97% of the crop also has reached the setting pods stage of development, the department said. And 11% of the crop has started to drop leaves.

About 11% of last year’s crop was dropping leaves by this point in the year, which was slightly behind the 12% multi-year average, said the department.

The crop maintained its quality score from last week, but, like corn, continues to fall behind on quality from last year, the department said. This week about 61% of the crop was found to earn a good or excellent rating, but last year 73% had done so.

Other feed crops

The sorghum harvest has started and the pace is falling between what was seen last year and what has been found on average, said the USDA. Typically, about 24% of the crop has been collected at this point and last year 20% was. Currently, about 23% of the crop has been collected.

Crop condition fell slightly from last week, and is behind last year, the department said. About 65% of the crop was rated good or excellent last week, which dropped to 63% this week, while last year’s crop was rated at 66%.

Oats have fallen behind the harvest pace set last year and on average, the department said. Usually about 94% of the crop has been collected at this point, and last year about 98% was gathered at this point. This year 91% has been harvested.

The barley harvest has increased past the pace set last year, said the department. And it remains in advance of the multi-year average.

This year about 92% of the crop has been collected, compared to 90% last year and 84% on average, the department said.

Lasting Harvey damage

Looking at the potential longer-term influence from the rain and flooding brought by Hurricane Harvey, the feed crop damage was not the largest concern for Texas, said Hart. Feed cropland in the state tends to be away from the southern coast.

However, the concern is that the port system will be able to function once the flooding recedes, he said.

“There’s definitely worry about that,” ​he said. “The strongest parallel would be hurricanes Katrina and Rita and we did have problems down there – the timing of the storm is similar and hitting a port system that can cause problems for agriculture. Thus far, we’ve seen more of an impact of cash bids in that area – we haven’t seen much pricing in the futures market.”

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