USDA crop progress: Focus shifts from planting to crop quality

Corn quality erodes last week, per the latest agency data

Ben Potter, Senior editor

June 24, 2019

4 Min Read

USDA is typically done reporting corn planting progress by late June, but this spring’s set of unusually wet circumstances has the agency still reporting those numbers for the week ending June 23. Other highlights of this week’s report include soybean planting progress, corn and soybean crop quality, and winter wheat harvest progress.062419CornPlantingProgress770.jpg

“Weather continues to take a toll on U.S. crops according to today’s progress update from USDA,” says Farm Futures senior grain market analyst Bryce Knorr. “How much of a toll is still anybody’s guess at this point.”

Corn planting progress is now at 96%, up from 92% a week ago. More states crossed the proverbial finish line, with Indiana (91%), Michigan (91%) and Ohio (80%) still the farthest behind so far. Among the top 18 production states, 89% of the crop is emerged, versus 100% last year and a five-year average of 99%.

“Corn planting came in higher than farmers told us on Feedback From The Field, but today’s estimate may reflect raters’ attempt to factor in prevent plant acres, clouding just what the number means,” Knorr says. “USDA updates its acreage estimate Friday and could cut another 2.8 million off its already reduced forecast from earlier this month. And historical trends suggest the final number could be down 2 million from that, with lower than normal harvested acreage whittling down potential production further.”

Corn crop quality took a big step back last week, meantime, moving from 59% in good-to-excellent condition down to 56% last week. Another 32% of the crop is rated fair (up a point from a week ago), with the remaining 12% rated poor or very poor (up three points from last week). Analysts were expecting USDA to hold quality ratings steady.



“While it’s still quite early, lower condition reports knocked more than a bushel per acre off my yield estimate, which slipped to around 169 bpa,” Knorr says. “While that may sound high, it’s already 7 bpa below where USDA started the season in terms of what’s a “normal” crop.”

Soybean planting progress remains significantly behind the pace of recent years after reaching 85% last week. That was a small improvement over the prior week’s tally of 77% but much slower than 2018’s mark of 100% and the five-year average of 97%. Missouri (66%), Michigan (69%) and Ohio (65%) are the farthest behind so far.

Soybean emergence has reached 71%, up from 55% a week ago but far behind 2018’s pace of 94% and the five-year average of 91%.

“Soybean seedings continue to lag normal rates in all but two states,” Knorr says. “USDA’s first ratings of the season are below average, coming in at the lowest levels for this week since 2012. But these early ratings can change dramatically during the growing season.”

USDA released soybean quality ratings for the first time this season, marking 54% of the crop in good-to-excellent condition, which was below analyst expectations of 59%. Another 36% of the crop is rated fair, with the remaining 10% rated poor or very poor.


Winter wheat harvest progress remains slow, with USDA reporting 15% completion last week. That nearly doubled the prior week’s tally of 8% but remains significantly slower than 2018’s pace of 39% and the five-year average of 34%. Southern states Arkansas (80%), North Carolina (61%) and Texas (58%) continue to lead the way so far.


Like corn, winter wheat crop quality took a dive last week, moving from 64% in good-to-excellent condition down to 61% last week. Another 28% of the crop is rated fair (up a point from last week), with the remaining 11% rated poor or very poor (up three points from last week).

Spring wheat crop quality dropped as well, moving from 77% in good-to-excellent condition a week ago down to 75%. Another 22% of the crop is rated fair, with the remaining 3% rated poor. Physiologically, 7% of the crop is headed, versus 30% last year and the five-year average of 29%.

“Winter wheat fields also appear to be showing the impact of heavy rains,” Knorr says. “My yield estimate based on ratings fell around a third of a bushel per acre, with a setback seen over most of the Plains and from Illinois to Ohio. Spring wheat potential also slipped also slipped for the third straight week, also losing around a third of a bushel per acre.”


About the Author(s)

Ben Potter

Senior editor, Farm Futures

Senior Editor Ben Potter brings two decades of professional agricultural communications and journalism experience to Farm Futures. He began working in the industry in the highly specific world of southern row crop production. Since that time, he has expanded his knowledge to cover a broad range of topics relevant to agriculture, including agronomy, machinery, technology, business, marketing, politics and weather. He has won several writing awards from the American Agricultural Editors Association, most recently on two features about drones and farmers who operate distilleries as a side business. Ben is a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism.

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