Column: Crop Watch: Yield hopes decline in Iowa and Illinois

Aerial view of a combine harvesting soybeans in Deerfield, Ohio, USA, October 7, 2021. Photo taken with a drone. Photo taken October 7, 2021. REUTERS/Dane Reese acquires licensing rights

NAPERVILLE, Ill. (Reuters) – All four Crop Watch producers in the key U.S. states of Iowa and Illinois cut their soybean production forecasts this week, and three of their four corn producers also trimmed their outlooks because dry, unfavorable weather has been too frequent this season.

The most recent drought, which began in mid-August, was characterized by cyclical heat and pushed U.S. Corn Belt crops to maturity too quickly, preventing maximization of yields. Some Crop Watch producers say their crops are now off, meaning the benefits of weather are waning.

Some crop monitoring fields received rain over the past week, including some heavy totals overnight into Monday morning, although many producers noted the rain as too little, too late. As of Sunday afternoon, the highest weekly rainfall total at the 11 crop monitoring sites was 0.6 inches.

Most of the Corn Belt is expected to remain dry over the next two weeks, with milder temperatures this week turning warmer next week. This supports early harvest efforts because wet and cool conditions can cause delays, but fields that are still using rain may not get the chance.


Crop Watch producers rated yield potential on a scale of 1 to 5 with a score of 3 being around average for farm productivity, 4 being solidly above average and 5 among the best yields ever.

Average soybean yield at 11 fields fell to a season low of 3.57 from 3.77 last week, which was also the largest weekly decline of the year. Western Iowa lost a full point this week, while the reductions came by a quarter of a point in Eastern Iowa, both sites in Illinois, Minnesota and Nebraska.

Soybean production potential is now lower than it was in the same week of the previous two years, which was 3.59 in 2022 and 3.66 in 2021. Soybean production across the Iowa and Illinois sites averaged 4.625 in 2021 and 4.375 in 2022.

This year, the soybean outlook in Iowa and Illinois averaged 4.5 in late July and early August, but fell this week to 3.69 from 4.13 last week. The Western Iowa producer said what could have been his best bean crop ever is now trying to maintain average hopes.

There could be an upside for eastern beans in Iowa, where up to an inch of rain fell between Sunday and Monday, but producers aren’t sure yet if that has helped. Nearly an inch in western Illinois Monday morning is not expected to improve crop monitoring yields but could benefit other fields that mature later.


The 11-field average corn yield fell to a season low of 3.61 from 3.7 last week, an equal decline as in the previous two weeks. Quarter-point cuts were made this week in Nebraska, eastern Iowa and both locations in Illinois.

Crop Watch corn production was 3.68 this week last year and 3.82 in 2021.

A Kansas corn field planted on April 12 had a harvest score of 4.25 on Thursday, due to early planting and pollination. Last year Kansas corn was planted and harvested on roughly the same dates, but the yield score ended at 1 due to poor weather.

Six of Crop Watch’s 11 corn fields have a yield grade of 4 or better with a high of 4.5 in Ohio. Corn yields in North Dakota, Nebraska, and Minnesota are lowest in the second range. Only three soybean fields had yields of 4 or higher, including 5 in Ohio. Soybeans in Minnesota and North Dakota are the lowest, both in Range 2.

Here are the states and counties with 2023 corn and soybean fields: Kingsbury, South Dakota; Freeborn, Minnesota; Burt, Nebraska; Rice, Kansas; Audubon, Iowa; Cedar, Iowa; Warren, Illinois; Crawford, Illinois; Tippecanoe, Indiana; Fairfield, Ohio. North Dakota corn is in Griggs County and soybeans are in Stutsman County.

Photos of Crop Watch fields can be followed on my Twitter feed using the handle @kannbwx.

Karen Brown is a market analyst at Reuters. The opinions expressed above are her own.

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

The opinions expressed are those of the author. They do not reflect the views of Reuters News, which is committed, under the Trust Principles, to integrity, independence and freedom from bias.

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As a Reuters columnist, Karen focuses on all aspects of global agricultural markets with a primary focus on grains and oilseeds. Karen has a strong science background and a passion for data, statistics, and charts, which she uses to add context to any hot topic driving the markets. Karen holds degrees in meteorology and occasionally shows that expertise in her columns. Follow her on Twitter @kannbwx for market insights.

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