Usually by the time Feed & Grain’s editor sits down to write his or her note for the October/November issue, harvest is well under way and it’s fairly obvious how grain handlers and merchandisers will navigate the coming months in light of either a bumper or bust crop.
This year, however, progress is significantly behind with just 7% of corn and 3% of soybeans harvested as of the Sept. 23 USDA Weekly Crop Progress Report (the latest available at press time). Of course, this is no surprise since Mother Nature dashed any hopes of early planting by ushering in spring with cooler than average temperatures and healthy doses of precipitation in the Corn Belt. Planting was pushed back late into May in many snow- and rain-soaked areas.
But despite the late start, USDA’s September Crop Production Report estimated total 2013 corn production at a record-breaking 13.8 billion bushels, a welcome rebound from last year’s dismal 10.8 billion bushels. Total soybean production is estimated at 3.15 billion bushels.
Luckily for grain handlers, many signs are positive that we’ll meet projected levels. The USDA reported corn maturity at 40%, an almost normal level, considering the five-year average for corn maturity is 55% by late September. And with the warm autumn we’re experiencing, there is little chance of an early frost, giving crops time to mature late into the season.
Crop conditions are also looking up. The latest USDA report estimated corn at only 5% very poor, with 42% good and 13% excellent. Soybean crop conditions were almost as promising with 41% good, 9% excellent and only 5% very poor.
Meanwhile, USDA’s latest report projects average corn yields at 155.3 bushels/acre. The average U.S. soybean yield for 2013 is estimated at 41.2 bushels/acre — well above the drought reduced 2012 U.S. soybean yield of 39.6 bushels/acre.
You and your producer customers have much work ahead, but once harvest gets into full swing, it’s on track to be a record breaker at best, and at worst, it will still be much better than 2012. Although USDA meteorologists are now saying the early part of 2013 was merely a wet spell in a sustained drought pattern, the relief was hopefully enough to meet USDA’s projections. Only time will tell for sure, but I am looking forward to the bountiful harvest on the horizon.
Elise Schafer | Editor, Feed & Grain