Crop Watch: Home Run for Indiana Corn but Huge Letdown for Illinois Soy -Braun

Corn Harvest at Goldenstein farm (test plots) ( Darrell Smith )

(The opinions expressed here are those of the author, a market analyst for Reuters.)

By Karen Braun

FORT COLLINS, Colo., Sept 28 (Reuters) - The Illinois soybeans were the third of 16 U.S. Crop Watch fields to be harvested last week, and the results were extremely disappointing. But the fourth field, the Indiana corn, finished on a very strong note.

The North Dakota producer was the only one of the eight who reported rampant harvest activity last week in the area, estimating completion on up to half of the soybean fields due to the super-dry status of the beans. Elsewhere, growers reported normal or even slow harvest progress within the last week.

As of Monday, the Iowa corn field was still in progress. If weather cooperates, the Crop Watch soybeans in Kansas, Minnesota, North Dakota and Ohio could be harvested this week. The Illinois producer also hopes to complete his corn field in the next few days.

The growers have been rating yield potential each week on a scale from 1 to 5. Scores of 1 or 5 represent yields close to or exceeding 15% below or above average, while 2 and 4 are assigned to yields around 5% to 10% from the recent field average.

Offsetting changes in Indiana and Illinois leave the unweighted, eight-field average corn yield unchanged at 3.59. The poor Illinois soybean result dropped the soy average to 3.31 from 3.53. 


The Illinois soybeans were harvested on Saturday and the final yield was 4% below the recent field average, scoring a 2.75 on the Crop Watch scale. The producer was very shocked by this since he had expected 4.5 going in.

In hindsight, he attributes the problems to excessive rainfall during July followed by an unusually dry August. There were a lot of pods on the plants, including four-bean pods, but many of them did not fill out or were flatter than usual. The dryness caused some of the pods to crack open and spill beans onto the ground, adding to losses.

The same thing happened for the Illinois producer in a nearby field, and even one of his other soybean fields that yielded far above the average actually fell slightly short of predictions. He says he cannot remember the last time yields were this far below his expectations.

Based on early harvest results, the Illinois grower reduced corn yield expectations a quarter-point to 4.5. The Illinois Crop Watch corn yielded 1.75 in 2019 and 4 in 2018, and the beans were 2.5 last year and 4.5 two years ago.

The Indiana corn yield finished around 25% above average, safely a 5 on the Crop Watch scale. Timely planting and mostly mild summer weather contributed to the success. The 2019 Indiana corn finished at a 3, but it had achieved a 5 in 2018.

The Kansas producer is also reporting general soybean disappointment based on results in the area. In North Dakota, yields have been highly variable due to the erratic summer weather, but the overall bias leans slightly below expectations. The Iowa Crop Watch soybeans earlier this month came in a bit below predictions.

The Kansas grower also notes that dryland corn yields in the area were extremely good, though irrigated fields were a bit disappointing. Corn-on-corn rotations and pivot malfunctions could have contributed. He has mostly wrapped up corn harvest and will focus on beans this week.

Crop Watch 2020 follows one corn and one soybean field in eight U.S. Corn Belt states, and weekly updates will continue through harvest. Photos of the 16 Crop Watch fields can be tracked on Twitter using the hashtag #CropWatch20.

The following are the states and counties of the Crop Watch corn and soybean fields: Griggs, North Dakota; Freeborn, Minnesota; Burt, Nebraska; Rice, Kansas; Cedar, Iowa; Crawford, Illinois; Boone, Indiana; Fairfield, Ohio. 

(Editing by Matthew Lewis)