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Dryness 'a concern for most of Iowa' officials say, as US crop ratings tumble


Dryness is “now a concern for most” of the US’s top corn-growing state, officials said, as they cut their rating of the US crop by the most in eight years.


The proportion of US corn rated in in “good” or “excellent” condition as of Sunday tumbled by 5 points week on week, the US Department of Agriculture said overnight, in its weekly Crop Progress report.


The decline, which exceeded the 2 point drop that investors had been expecting, was the largest for any week since the drought year of 2012, when the rating plunged by 37 points over a five-week period in June and July.


And it reflected in part a further deterioration in the rating for Iowa - the top US corn-growing state, and second-ranked soybean producer - where a dearth of rain has added to the crop setback caused by high winds two weeks ago, in a so-called derecho storm.


‘Dry conditions now a concern’

For Iowa, the reading dropped by 9 points, following on from a 10-point tumble the previous week, and reducing the good or excellent reading to 50%.


That compares with a five-year average rating of 72% for the time of year, according to Futures International.


“Dry conditions are now a concern for most of the state,” USDA officials in Iowa said, reporting at 76% the proportion of Iowa topsoil either “short” or “very short” of moisture – up 20 points week on week, and ahead of a 23% figure a year ago.


“Drought conditions continue to expand across the region as widespread rains have not yet materialised,” the officials said.


‘Crop conditions deteriorated’

Indeed, in neighbouring Nebraska too, the proportion of topsoil assessed as short or very short in moisture rose by 19 points week on week to 66% - accompanied by a dip in crop ratings.


The proportion of Nebraska corn rated good or excellent fell by 7 points week on week, also to 66%.


The largest ratings decline was suffered in Michigan, of 11 points to 54%, with USDA scouts noting that “crop conditions deteriorated throughout the week due to lack of much-needed precipitation.


“Soil moisture levels continued to decrease across most areas of the state.”


‘Notably hotter outlook’

The USDA’s soybean crop condition rating also declined by more than the 2 points investors had expected, by 3 points to 69% good or excellent, led by deterioration in South Dakota, as well as the likes of Michigan and Nebraska.


The readings come amid expectations of further dryness ahead, with Maxar saying late on Monday that “hot and dry weather is expected across the central and western Corn Belt this week, which will increase stress on soybeans and corn filling in South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, and northern Illinois”.


The forecast had trended “slightly drier across the west central Midwest, particularly in South Dakota and Iowa,” the weather service said, adding that the temperature outlook “is notably hotter across the Midwest this week”.


However, forecasters are also monitoring the potential for Tropical Storm Laura to bring rains after it makes landfall in eastern Texas later this week, although official meteorologists currently see the path of the storm trending below the driest areas of the Corn Belt, heading through the likes of Tennessee towards southern Ohio and east to Washington DC.


Yield implications

The deterioration in the corn rating took it below the average of 66% for the time of year, on Agrimoney calculations, and in prospective yield terms represented a 177.4 bushels-per-acre figure, according to Benson Quinn Commodities.


While still historically high, that is below the 181.8 bushels per acre that the USDA is factoring in, although in line with the result from last week’s Pro Farmer crop tour.


For soybeans, “modelling latest conditions” indicates a soybean yield of 52.5 bushels per acre, Benson Quinn Commodities said, also in line with the Pro Farmer finding, but below the current USDA figure of 53.3 bushels per acre.


The US soybean condition rating remains above the five-year average reading of 63% for the time of year, on Agrimoney calculations.

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