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Crop acres up but drought puts crimp on yield outlook

July 12, 2012 | 0 comments

Farmers in the United States planted more acres of the major crops this year but how that will translate into yields poses a huge question as a drought continues its grip on areas of the country, which account for the bulk of the production of corn and soybeans.

Given current conditions, especially as corn begins its pollination stage and soybeans start to set pods, the additional acres are not likely to cover the potential significant cutback in yields precipitated by the drought, accompanied by the early July heat wave.

Most recent surveys point to average national corn yields of less than 150 bushels per acre compared to early season projections by the U.S. Department of Agriculture of well over 160 bushels per acre.

The latest reports on corn crop conditions indicate 8 to 10 percentage point drops per week in the portion of the crop considered to be in good or excellent condition.

The July 2 report, not including the record heat wave that followed, put the good/excellent portion at 48 percent, with Indiana and Illinois coming in with much lower numbers while Minnesota and North Dakota still had good/excellent ratings of 70-80 percent.

In its report on crop plantings for 2012, the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) estimated a corn acreage of 96.4 million - five percent more than in 2011 and the highest number of acres since 1937.

Wisconsin corn growers planted 4.35 million acres of corn this year. The state's increase of 200,000 corn acres compared to 2011 puts this year's total at the third highest on record.

Around the nation, compared to a year ago, corn acres are at record highs in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Oregon, and Nevada.

Based on planting intentions expressed in March of this year, growers in Iowa and Nebraska ending up planting a total of one million less acres of corn than they had planned, the NASS report stated.

The nation's soybean plantings increased by 1.104 million acres to a total of 76.08 million for this year.

Wisconsin's soybean acres are up by 80,000 to 1.69 million. New York, Pennsylvania, and North Dakota set record highs for soybean plantings this year while South Dakota tied its previous record.

Wisconsin farmers planted 20,000 more acres of oats this year to put the total at 230,000 but that is still the second lowest on record.

So is the United States oats crop intended for harvest as grain - 1.091 million of the 2.746 million acres planted this year.

Barley acres in Wisconsin are down by another 3,000 to 30,000 for this year with one-half of them intended as harvest for grain.

The national planting of barley jumped by 1.119 million acres this year to a total of 3.678 million. The NASS report indicated this is the first increase in national barley acres since 2008.

Wisconsin farmers have begun to harvest an estimated 250,000 of the 265,000 acres of winter wheat that were planted last autumn.

Those are respective decreases of 85,000 and 80,000 acres from a year ago but the latest official forecast put the average yield at a recent high of 70 bushels per acre for the crop, which completed most of its growth before the onset of the drought.

The national winter wheat crop of 41.819 million acres is a three percent increase from 2011.

NASS has forecast total production of 1.68 billion bushels of wheat from an average of 47.3 bushels per acre but private reports based on completed harvests in the Southern Plains and the lower part of the Midwest indicate much higher yields.

Wisconsin's 1.5 million acres of harvested alfalfa is a drop of 100,000 acres from 2011 but there was an increase of 50,000 in the acres for other dry hay crops.

The 18.8 million national total of alfalfa hay acres is a decline of two percent but the acres for other hay are up by seven percent to a total of 38.8 million.

Dry edible beans are also included in the state and national reports for planted acreage. Wisconsin's acreage is up by 400 this year to 5,700 - most of which are for dark red kidney beans, for which Wisconsin ranked second among the states for production in 2011.

The nation's dry edible bean acreage for 2012 is estimated at 1.633 million. This is a jump of 35 percent from 2011.

For what are considered principal crops, Wisconsin farmers planted 8.134 million acres this year - an increase of 118,000 acres or two percent from 2011.

The national total, which includes 21 principal crops, is up three percent or 9.13 million to a total of 325.835 million acres for this year.

Other observations by research analyst Mike Laird in the crop summary issued by the Wisconsin field office of NASS were that 86 percent of the corn and 92 percent of the soybeans planted in the state this year had at least one biotech trait.

In a related report on grain stocks as of June 1, corn was down by nine percent to 154.122 million bushels in Wisconsin compared to a year earlier while the national total was down by 14 percent to 3.1485 billion bushels.

Those totals include on-farm and off-farm stocks. Corn usage from March through May of this year was 2.87 billion bushels compared to 2.85 billion for those months in 2011.

Wisconsin's soybean stocks, however, jumped by 30 percent to 23.257 million bushels compared to June 1 of 2011. The national total was up by eight percent to 667.475 million bushels.

Oats holdings in Wisconsin on June 1 were 5.612 million bushels (no number was published for 2011). National oats stocks were down by 24 percent from a year earlier to just under 55 million bushels.

Old crop wheat stocks in the United States on June 1 were 742.712 million bushels, down by 14 percent from a year earlier while old crop barley in storage was down by 33 percent to 60.065 million bushels.

Separate figures are not provided for Wisconsin because it is considered a minor state in the production of those grains.

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