Heavy rains cause more good than harm to US corn

Ideas that heavy rains may be proving more beneficial than harmful to US crops received a boost when data showed the condition of corn showing a surprise improvement.

The proportion of US corn rated "good" or "excellent" rose by 1 point to 75% in the week to Sunday, cementing its place as the second-best-rated crop in the past 20 years, and beating market expectations for an unchanged figure.

The data showed that heavy rains in some northern areas, some of which received more than six inches over the week, indeed damaged crops.

In Minnesota, where the proportion of corn rated "good" or "excellent" dropped 5 points to 65%, "precipitation and wet field conditions continued to stress crops and delay alfalfa hay cuttings", USDA scouts said.

"Conditions declined for all crops during the week as a result of excess moisture and standing water."

'Difficult time applying herbicides'

In North Dakota, where the proportion of corn rated "good" or "excellent" dropped 4 points to 81%, crops faced "cool temperatures and excessive rainfall" l in the western half of the state.

Besides impairing crops directly, the conditions have "slowed fieldwork", scouts said, noting that farmers were "having a difficult time applying herbicides and cutting hay due to excessive moisture in the fields".

In Minnesota too, "many farmers have been unable to get equipment into their fields, delaying fertilizer and chemical application", while in Iowa, the top corn and soybean producing state, "recurring precipitation continued to limit fieldwork".

'Corn was improving'

However, further south, rains proved more beneficial, notably in the southern Plains where the precipitation is breaking drought.

In Texas, where the condition of corn improved by 2 points to 64% seen good or excellent, "corn was improving due to recent rainfall", USDA scouts said.

In Kansas, the proportion of corn seen good or excellent rose by 4 points to 55%, despite thunderstorms which "brought widespread rainfall over several days, and some hail damage to crops.

"The rain and high humidity… was beneficial for row crops and pastures."

Taking to the air

A similar north south divide was seen in soybeans too, in which a national crop rating static at 72% good or excellent disguised deterioration in the north, offset by improvements in Kansas and the south.

In Mississippi, where the proportion of soybeans rose by 5 points to 68%, "growers are having to use planes" for spraying, "with the ground too wet for hiboy tractors", one scout said.

"Weeds continue as the main issue."

For cotton, for which the southern US is the main growing region, the benefits and damage from the US weather also balanced out, leaving the proportion of crop seen as good or excellent at 53%.

Harvest slowdown

For wheat, the rains did hamper harvest, with the harvest, which had been running ahead of the average pace a week before, falling back behind, at 43% finished compared with the typical 48%.

In Kansas, the top wheat producing state, where 40% of crop was in the barn, compared with a typical 66%, scouts highlighted that the wet conditions "limited wheat harvest last week".

However, the damp also fostered some late improvement in the condition of the crop, offsetting declines in parts of the Midwest, where vomitoxin, a toxic fungal residue, is being seen as a growing threat.

For spring wheat, grown in the northern US, the proportion of the crop rated good or excellent eased 1 point to 70%, reflecting deterioration in Minnesota and South Dakota.

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