Water Logged! 2019 U.S. Corn & Soybeans Have a Rough Start

Published on June 7, 2019 by Jude Kastens

Tags: Agriculture, Corn, Crop yield, Drought, Greenness, GreenReport, Growing Season, NDVI, Research, Satellite imagery, Soybeans, Weather, Wheat

Flooded field in central Kansas on May 30, 2019 (picture by Jude Kastens)

Flooded field in central Kansas on May 30, 2019 (picture by Jude Kastens)

June 7, 2019 – In collaboration with commercial partners TerraMetrics Agriculture, Inc. (TMAI) of Lawrence and Planalytics of Berwyn, PA, the Kansas Applied Remote Sensing Program (KARS) is keeping the industry apprised of the 2019 growing season through its GreenReport® and Crop Yield Forecast products. The GreenReport® was launched on March 20, and crop yield forecasting began March 27 with winter wheat. Corn and soybean yield forecasting started on June 5.

The 2019 growing season marks our 18th year of satellite-based, real time crop yield forecasting for the nation.

With a wet fall across Kansas and the surrounding area, the central US winter wheat crop was planted late and entered dormancy without much biomass. Fortunately a wet winter brought favorable moisture conditions when the crop resumed its spring growth. With a damp April and May across the Great Plains, yield prospects are favorable from Texas to South Dakota, though the crop is behind to the north and still has a lot of growing to do. Harvest has made its way into southern Oklahoma and should reach Kansas within a couple of weeks. Elsewhere, the northern Great Plains crop is in good condition at the moment, but it’s getting dry in the western PNW with no relief in sight. On the other hand, too much moisture is holding back the crop in the Midwest. Our latest assessment suggests US winter wheat yield could reach close to 52 bu/ac.

US corn is coming off five consecutive above-trend crops during 2014-2018, with three new records established during that run and nearly a fourth last year. With some confidence we can say that streak is about to end. Widespread rainfall across the Midwest throughout much of April and May has led to the slowest planting pace in 40 years of USDA record keeping – just 67% of the US crop had been planted as of June 2, which past studies have shown to be a harbinger of reduced yields. Corn emergence (tracked since 1999) was 46%, compared to the previous low of 73% observed in 2009. Sub-par satellite greenness reflects the reduced potential of the US corn crop. With final planting dates for full insurance coverage behind us, the question remains regarding how many intended corn acres will go unplanted this year.

Similar to the corn crop, US soybeans have also seen five straight years of above-trend yields along with three (almost four) new records established. Also like corn, record slow planting and emergence has characterized this year’s crop. As of June 2, planting pace at the national level stood at 39%, which is a 40-year low but not too far off from other late years such as 1995 (43%) and 1996 (45%). In top-producer Illinois, just 21% of its soybean crop had been planted compared to an average of 84%. On the bright side, soy has a bigger planting cushion than corn and can still make a strong recovery if most everything goes right through the summer and fall. For this reason, final soy planting dates for full insurance coverage across most of the Midwest are still ahead, ranging from June 10-20.

With both crops off to a rocky start, US corn and soy yield prospects appear to have already taken a hit, though we believe soy has a better chance of recovery if producers can get the crop in the ground. While there could be some opportunity for this over the next few weeks, the forecast is not completely dry, with more moisture expected in the eastern Corn Belt where delays are the greatest. After that, everything depends on which way the weather goes through the rest of the growing season, which is completely up in the air at this point. As in most years, much uncertainty remains about how the 2019 growing season will unfold. Stay on top of things by following the GreenReport® and the satellite-based Crop Yield Forecasts throughout the year.

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Using satellite imagery to measure plant vigor across the conterminous U.S., the GreenReport® is published weekly by KARS during the March-October growing period. Current conditions are related to the previous week, the previous year, and the 1989-2018 historical average. To enhance the value of the GreenReport® maps, Planalytics agribusiness meteorologists provide critical insight by describing the impact of historical, current, and forecasted weather on current vegetation conditions and expected changes in condition, with an emphasis on agriculture.

The GreenReport® can be viewed in 2 different formats. A set of fixed maps that illustrate vegetation condition and change at reduced resolutions can be seen can be found here. An interactive GIS format, with selectable layers and maps at full resolution, can be found here.

KARS-TMAI Crop Yield Forecasts are updated biweekly throughout the growing season and cover the conterminous U.S. at district (ASD), state, and national scales. Winter wheat yield forecasting began on March 27. In addition to winter wheat, forecasting for seven other crops (including corn and soybeans) began on June 5. All Crop Yield Forecasts will be distributed by Planalytics. Each Crop Yield Forecast update is enhanced with expert commentary provided by KARS-TMAI.

Crop yield forecasting research at KARS-TMAI has been ongoing since 1995, and 2019 represents KARS-TMAI’s 18th year of real-time, nationwide forecasting. For more information regarding Planalytics agribusiness solutions, see the Planalytics website. For general information regarding KARS-TMAI crop yield forecasting, see past news item 'Satellites Are Watching Your Corn', or contact Jude Kastens

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