The US soybean crop has got off to its worst start in recent history, undermined by the wet weather which has slowed the winter wheat harvest to one of the slowest on record, with farmers nearly 5m acres behind already.
The US Department of Agriculture, in its initial condition rating for the domestic soybean crop, estimated 54% as “good” or “excellent”, the lowest first reading on readily-available data going back to 1995.
“This was lowest rating for beans since 1992, which was 51% good or excellent,” said Benson Quinn Commodities.
The condition reading – which actually for the time of year remained marginally above that of the drought-hit crop of 2012 - is viewed as an indication of yield potential.
The weak reading comes as early summer is seeing a continuation of the wetness which has slowed sowings of US crops such as corn and sorghum, as well as of soybeans, of which 85% of the US crop had been seeded as of Sunday, the USDA data showed.
That was 12 points behind the average pace, and 3 points below market expectations, besides being the slowest in 23 years.
The condition rating was particularly low, at 30%, for Ohio, which has been particularly badly affected by wet weather, and where USDA scouts reported that “once again, much of the state received higher than normal amounts of rain last week”.
“There was less than 1 day suitable for fieldwork” in the state, where “fields became increasingly saturated”.
In Missouri - where more than half soil has “surplus” moisture, and which received 3.0 inches of rain last week, 2.0 inches above average – the crop was rated at 36%, and at 38% for Michigan, where soybean crop “conditions were reported to be declining due to excessive soil moisture”.
However, below-par reading were reported too for some major producing states, including top grower Illinois, where soybeans were sees as 42% good or excellent, struggling in topsoil of which 55% was viewed as containing surplus moisture.
‘Wet weather returned’
Indiana too, another of the much-followed so-called “I states”, also showed a below-average soybean condition rating, of 41.
“Wet weather returned last week and limited fieldwork in much of the state,” USDA state statistician Greg Matli said, adding that “steady rains throughout the week pushed soil moisture levels back up”.
However, Iowa, the second biggest soybean-planting state, did show a decent rating, with 63% of crop rated good or excellent.
While Iowa scouts reported “another wet week as showers and thunderstorms”, soil saturation is less widespread than in the other I states, with 31% of topsoil showing “surplus” moisture.
‘Upwards of 6 inches’
The USDA briefing revealed the dent to rains on US winter wheat harvest progress too, which at 15% complete as of Sunday was well below the typical pace of 34% by now, coming in too below market expectations of a 19% figure.
It was also the slowest on data going back to 1995.
Progress in Illinois - a key grower of soft red winter wheat, as traded in Chicago – was limited to 15% as of Sunday, compared with a typical figure of 47% for the time of year, with the Missouri harvest showing a similar level of delay.
In the southern Plains hard red winter wheat heartland, Texas farmers had completed 58% of harvest, 14 points behind normal, in a week which brought hail to some parts of the state, and rains of “upwards of 6 inches” to some eastern farms.
In Oklahoma, where farmers have normally harvested 78% of their winter wheat by now, only 43% was in the barn, scouts said, reporting that last week “all districts recorded above-normal precipitation”.
‘Slow, laboured start’
However, much focus remains on the harvest in neighbouring Kansas, the top wheat-growing state, where harvest was reported at just 5% complete, compared with a typical 37%.
Separately, industry group Kansas Wheat reported that “harvest got off to a slow, laboured start in south central Kansas over the weekend.
“The normal excitement and anticipation for wheat harvest can hardly be found in the area, as farmers who are normally finished by late June hop into their combines to face the muddy, dreary conditions for the first time this year.”
However, reports have yet to show significant crop damage from rain, as some investors have feared, with isolated Kansas Wheat findings of about 60 pounds per bushel in test weight.
On yield, Plains Grains last week reported last week that for Oklahoma and Texas, “yields are still being reported as very good and well above both state’s long-term averages”.