Tardy El Niño too late as early corn harvest begins

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Drought corn Corn harvest in the southern Plains and Corn Belt is currently under way. And though conditions have stabilized, the outlook for the nation’s corn and soy crops is grim as drought-relieving El Niño slowly develops.  

In its weekly Crop Progress report, the USDA showed that 51 percent of the corn crop is in poor to very poor condition, unchanged from last week.

Corn harvest: Under way in 8 states

Sixty percent of corn has dented, and 17 more is now mature. This week’s report was the first to update the progress on corn harvest this year, now 4 percent complete nationwide. The national average – as well as the states in the midst of harvest – is ahead of last year's pace.  

 

Week Ending

 

State

August 19, 2011

August 12, 2012

August 19, 2012

2007-2011 Average

Illinois

-

NA

3

-

Kansas

3

NA

17

1

Kentucky

-

NA

11

1

Missouri

2

NA

18

1

Nebraska

-

NA

1

-

North Carolina

9

NA

7

3

Tennessee

1

NA

18

2

Texas

50

NA

51

45

U.S.

1

NA

4

1

Despite the progress already made on corn harvest, yields from such drought- and heat-stressed crops are among the concerns of producers.

click image to zoom2012 Harvest - corn “Yield reports from these areas vary widely, but are generally quite poor, reinforcing USDA’s aggressively lower yield and production estimates on Aug. 10,” The Doane Advisory Service wrote in a recent report.

Looking at the past 27 years of Crop Progress reports, this week’s report is the earliest in the season that harvest has been reported. Though an August harvest is not unusual among the Southern corn-producing states, the majority of reports begin updating on the harvest progress beginning during the third week of September.

The graphic to the right shows the distribution of first harvest reports in the month of September as reported by the Crop Progress.

The only state to begin reporting harvest advancement was in the Aug. 31, 1987 report.

Crop conditions are finally steady this week after falling for 10 consecutive weeks:

 

Very Poor

Poor

Fair

Good

Excellent

This Week

26

25

26

20

3

Last Week

26

25

26

20

3

Last Year

6

11

26

44

13

Even with the stable report, there are now five states reporting at least 70 percent of corn in poor to very poor condition. Missouri tops the list with 84 percent of its corn rated in these conditions.  See how your state is doing here.

The current drought, the worst in 56 years, is often compared to 1988 conditions. When comparing the national conditions from 2012 to 1988, we see how the two measure up:

 

Very Poor

Poor

Fair

Good

Excellent

August 20, 2012

26

25

26

20

3

August 21, 1988

15

38

31

14

2

In 1988, 8 states (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio and South Dakota) reported up to 10 percent of crops in good to excellent condition, compared to 5 states in 2012 (Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky and Missouri).  These states also show similarities between the 1988 report:

Illinois:

 

Very Poor

Poor

Fair

Good

Excellent

August 20, 2012

42

31

22

5

0

August 21, 1988

14

48

35

3

0

Indiana:

 

Very Poor

Poor

Fair

Good

Excellent

August 20, 2012

38

32

21

8

1

August 21, 1988

6

55

35

4

0

Kansas:

 

Very Poor

Poor

Fair

Good

Excellent

August 20, 2012

41

32

22

5

0

August 21, 1988

7

9

10

57

17

Kentucky:

 

Very Poor

Poor

Fair

Good

Excellent

August 20, 2012

45

34

15

5

1

August 21, 1988

15

37

44

4

0

Missouri:

 

Very Poor

Poor

Fair

Good

Excellent

August 20, 2012

56

28

12

3

1

August 21, 1988

29

40

22

8

1

Weather conditions for the next seven to 10 days have both good and bad news for the Midwest. Though the region desperately needs rain – at least 12 inches in most areas – dry weather is expected to continue for the next week to 10 days, which will provide ideal conditions for harvesting crops.

"Rather benign weather this week, and next week looks similar," Don Keeney, meteorologist for MDA EarthSat Weather, forecasts.

Keeney told Reuters that even if conditions did turn to a wetter weather pattern, it would do little to revive drought-stricken crops and would only slow the early harvest pace. However, rain is desperately needed, and many look to El Niño, now developing, to bring relief.

Earlier this month an El Niño watch was issued, indicating that wetter conditions are likely to develop by the end of September for much of the country. El Niño tends to bring drought-easing rain to the South and Midwest, pushing the drought to the West. Read more.

Soybeans: Mostly done setting pods, some dropping leaves

More than 90 percent of soybeans have set pods and 4 percent have dropped leaves. Eleven of the states have reported between 1 percent and 25 percent of soybeans dropping leaves, putting progress well above 2011’s pace.

Unlike corn, soybeans slightly improved this week:

 

Very Poor

Poor

Fair

Good

Excellent

This Week

16

21

32

27

4

Last Week

16

22

32

26

4

Last Year

4

10

27

46

13

Missouri and Kansas showed the highest percentage of soybeans in poor to very poor condition, reporting 78 percent and 75 percent respectively.



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