Crop conditions hold steady, maturity varies in USDA report

By Spencer Chase

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, Aug. 18, 2014 - Expectations of a potentially record corn crop are bolstered by USDA's crop progress report, which said current conditions are better than last year's record harvest.

Corn and soybeans are both in better condition than last year, the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) said in its weekly crop progress report released Monday afternoon. Nationwide, corn is pegged at 72 percent good-to-excellent, compared to 61 percent at the same time last year. Soybeans show a similar jump, going from 62 percent good-to-excellent last year to 71 percent this year.

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“I think everyone has accepted the fact that we're going to have the record yield this year,” said Paul Bertels, vice president of production and utilization with the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA).  “Right now plants look strong, ears are huge. It's looking good.”

Both corn and soybeans are projected further ahead than last year in maturity. Nationwide, 83 percent of soybeans are setting pods compared to 70 percent at this time last year and the 79 percent five-year average.

Corn reaching the “dough” stage of development is at 70 percent, much higher than the 49 percent observed last year and the 63 percent five-year average. Corn in the “dented” stage - which comes immediately after dough - is at 22 percent nationwide, which is higher than the 10 percent seen last year but lower than the 27 percent five-year average.

Bertels attributed the variability in crop maturity to the cooler weather this growing season.

“This is one of the negative impacts of a cool summer,” Bertels said. “You're not getting all the growing degree days you need for the (crop) to progress really quickly, but it's not in a bad state.”

Since crops may mature more quickly this year, logic would dictate an earlier harvest is also expected. However, Bertels said that due to potentially scarce propane (a fuel commonly used in grain dryers), rail and storage issues at elevators, and unfavorable market conditions, many producers may opt to simply wait and allow their grain to dry in the field rather than harvesting at a condition that would require use of a grain dryer.

“Right now, I think (producers) are going to be patient and try to get as much in-field drying done as they can,” Bertels said. “It all depends on what the weather is like. If it stays hot through the rest of August and what does September look like? Are we going to get some fields dried out? I think people will take advantage of that as much as they can instead of burning expensive and scarce propane.”

Conditions for crops such as cotton, peanuts, and sorghum largely held steady in the report. Spring wheat is recorded as 17 percent harvested, on par with last year's 16 percent but falling behind the 33 percent five-year average.

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