East-West split in US corn belt means harvest is in doubt

Drought and extreme heat in the western US crop belt have damaged corn: crops are short. The stems turn brown. And corn cobs very often don’t fill up completely with yellow kernels.

In the east, however, it is not so bad. Copious rainfall has helped keep soils moist in parts of Indiana and Ohio. Yield prospects vary by farm, even by hectare. But in some places there is optimism that conditions will be good enough to surpass historical averages.

These are the results so far from the four-day Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour. As Scouts head into the second half of the tour, the question now is: are things in the East good enough to offset the West’s dismal harvest?

Much of this will boil down to two states: Illinois and Iowa, the powerhouses of the US corn crop and where the scouts are headed on Wednesday. Iowa is of particular interest because it lies at the intersection of the western drought and the eastern rains. The state is also the No. 1 grain producer — so goes Iowa, so goes the national crop.

This is important for a world grappling with blistering food inflation and rising hunger levels. Shrinking grain stocks, damaged by war and the effects of climate change, have helped food bills skyrocket. If the US manages to get a big corn crop, it could bring some much-needed relief.

The east and west portions of the harvest tour will convene in Minnesota on Thursday to tabulate measurements taken throughout the week. Then on Friday, Pro Farmer will release a national corn yield forecast based in part on tour results.

Whether this national figure will be just a tad disappointing or completely miserable depends on who you ask – and what stage of the Tour you’re on.

Nebraska corn is “done”

Take Peter Meyer, director of grain and oilseed analysis at S&P Global Platts, who has helped explore fields in Nebraska and South Dakota. He has seen fields so dry that corn plants do not even produce heads.

“I’ve been harvesting for 16 years and I’ve never walked into a field that had no ears,” Meyer said. “Is there anything east that can make up for what we’ve seen in Nebraska the last two days?”

Soybeans, which typically grow later in the season, are still considered viable if enough rain falls between now and the start of harvest in the coming weeks. But the corn? You have “no chance at all,” said Meyer. “It is finished.”

Still, crops in fields to the east were more mature and lush, and crops still show good potential for adding bushels in this final stretch of the growing season – as long as enough showers arrive during grain fill season.

Mark Bernard, a crop consultant for agricultural economics and a tour scout for the eastern leg, is a little more optimistic than his western counterparts.

“We still have some fields with good potential, but it needs rain,” he said.

Meyer from the west stage also warned against letting the weak results catch up to date: “We’re only halfway through the tour, anything can still happen.”

https://www.independent.ie/business/farming/news/east-versus-west-split-in-us-corn-belt-means-harvest-is-in-doubt-41933686.html East-West split in US corn belt means harvest is in doubt

Fry Electronics Team

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