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USDA crop progress: Corn harvest starts slow

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Corn harvest has started, but it’s a little behind the five-year average.

According to the latest crop progress report from USDA, corn crop condition from a week ago was a carbon copy of last week, with 61% of the crop rated good to excellent. Even so, the corn crop is a bit of a slowpoke – lagging behind the five-year average when it comes to percent of crop mature and percent harvested.

For the week ending Sept. 17, 86% of the corn crop is dented, according to USDA, compared to 92% a year ago and 90% for the five-year average. Percent mature is up to 34% – well behind last year’s total of 50% and the five-year average of 47%. Harvest is now 17% complete, versus 8% in 2016 and 11% for the five-year average.

The majority of the 2017 corn crop continues to be rated good to excellent. Only 13% of the crop is rated poor to very poor. And multiple states boast 80% or more of the crop rated good to excellent, including Pennsylvania (91%), Tennessee (87%), Wisconsin (80%), Kentucky (83%) and Minnesota (81%).

Still, Monday’s crop progress report confirmed this week’s Vegetation Health Index maps, which have hinted at declining conditions that can be hard to judge when crops are maturing, according to Farm Futures senior grain market analyst Bryce Knorr.

“Our forecasts based on both the national rating of the soybean crop and state-by-state conditions showed declines, with the average of the two methods down about .15 of 1 bushel per acre,” he said. “The state model projected a U.S. corn yield down to 163.9 bpa, while the rating based on USDA’s national rating was unchanged at 165.6 bpa. Those compare to USDA’s Sept. 12 estimate of 169.9 bpa.”

The corn yield potential in Illinois has suffered significantly according to these assessments, Knorr said – by as much as 3.1 bpa, down to 173.2 bpa.

“That matches some of the anecdotal comments we’re hearing from farmers,” he said. “Soybean yields were down in both Iowa and Illinois, offsetting gains in some smaller producing states.”

For a second straight week, nationwide soybean ratings slipped by 1%, moving its good-to-excellent totals from 60% to 59%. Another 29% of the crop is rated fair, with the remaining 12% rated poor or very poor.

Meantime, the soybean crop approaches maturity. A total of 41% of the crop is dropping leaves, up from 22% a week ago. That’s still slightly behind 2016 and the five-year average of 43%. Harvest has just begun. At 4% complete, that’s in line with a year ago (4%) and the five-year average (5%).

Spring wheat is now 95% harvested, ahead of the five-year average of 87%. Idaho, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota are all slightly ahead of schedule, with Washington slightly behind.

The 2017-18 winter wheat crop continues to be planted. Up to 13% of the crop is now in the ground, compared to 5% last week. The 2016 pace and the five-year average are both 15%.

The 2017 sorghum harvest is up to 29% complete, which is identical to the pace set in 2016 and in line with the five-year average.

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