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MN: Sweet spot in Corn Belt on crop conditions

MORGAN, Minn. -- Crop ratings for corn and soybeans nationally have been running well below last year for much of the growing season and major production states are following suit. One exception has been Minnesota, where the U.S. Department of Ag...

In USDA’s most recent crop ratings, corn is 80 percent good to excellent in Minnesota, which is significantly better than in surrounding state. (Michelle Rook / Special to Forum News Service)
Soybeans in Minnesota have had some planting and emergence issues this year, but are still looking better than soybean crops in surrounding states. (Michelle Rook/Special to Agweek)

MORGAN, Minn. - Crop ratings for corn and soybeans nationally have been running well below last year for much of the growing season and major production states are following suit. One exception has been Minnesota, where the U.S. Department of Agriculture's most recent crop ratings were 80 percent good to excellent for corn, down 1 percent from last week, with soybeans rated at 74 percent, up 1 percent.

The question is whether or not this will translate into high yields for the state and if Minnesota will be anywhere close to last year's record-setting corn and soybean production.

Dave Nicolai, University of Minnesota Extension educator for crops, says Minnesota is faring better than other areas of the Corn Belt, especially compared to the drought-stricken Dakotas.

However, even the I-states have been challenged, which is reflected in their declining crop ratings.

"Illinois and Indiana have had their challenges, too, and even parts of Iowa, so I think if you look at that situation here, Minnesota is kind of a sweet spot in retrospect," says Nicolai.

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However, Nicolai says the state is a tale of two crops, with the east faring better than the west. "The crop looks very good in a lot of the parts of the state, especially south central, eastern Minnesota," he says. That's because those areas have received ample moisture, so farmers there are optimistic about corn yields.

Bruce Schmoll farms near Claremont, Minn., in the southeast corner of the state.

"Actually I think we're going to be comparable to last year if things progress the way they are," says Schmoll. "Our corn just tasseled out last week so we had decent weather for that - not real hot and dry. I'm anticipating we can get that 220- to 230-bushel yield on the corn side."

However, as you move to the north and west, precipitation has been below normal.

"We had about 4.5 inches about six weeks ago, and we've had two or three tenths since, so we're probably two or three inches behind," says Ron Obermoller of Brewster, Minn. That, combined with the heat during pollination, will result in lower yields than a year ago on corn. "Last year we had best crop ever," he says. "We probably averaged 210, and I'm guessing we're already 20 bushels off of that in corn."

In central Minnesota, dryness is also becoming a concern for Tom Haag of Eden Valley.

"Now the last two to three weeks we haven't caught the key rains," he says. "Our clay knobs are starting to show the stress so we know we don't have the yield that we do in the lower part of the field."

He says that is lowering yield potential, especially compared to 2016.

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"Last year we were in that 185 bushel range. This year we're probably more in that average," says Haag. "We're hoping for 160 to 165 bushel on corn."

If it stays dry, Haag thinks that will impact test weights.

"Right now, I would say we're on average with test weights, but a lot depends upon if we don't get the moisture to help fill that ear out. We will then have lighter test weight," he says.

There's still time for the soybeans, but farmers are not quite as optimistic about the prospects for this year's crop because of the planting and emergence issues. In Western Minnesota, Bob Worth of Lamberton has been lucky to receive some timely rains the rest of the area has missed out on. However, the crop got off to a poor start.

"We had a lot of variabilities when we put the crop in - some couldn't get it in on time and then we had some drowned outs, we had some replants, we had all kinds of these small issues," says Worth. Due to these factors, he believes his soybean yields will be down from last year as well.

"We're going to be above trendline, but we're not going to be where we were last year so we're probably talking about 180 to 190 bushel corn, and we're probably talking 50 to 60 bushel beans," Worth says.

With the variability across the state, Nicolai says average yields in Minnesota won't break last year's records for corn or beans either.

"South central Minnesota can help to pick up a lot of the state and move it towards trendline, but I don't think we're looking for a record crop obviously given the current situation and moisture situation."

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For more on this story with video, watch AGWEEKTV at agweek.com/agweektv

In USDA’s most recent crop ratings, corn is 80 percent good to excellent in Minnesota, which is significantly better than in surrounding state. (Michelle Rook / Special to Forum News Service)
In USDA’s most recent crop ratings, corn is 80 percent good to excellent in Minnesota, which is significantly better than in surrounding state. (Michelle Rook/Special to Agweek)

Related Topics: CORNSOYBEANS
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