Crop tour scouts find record corn, soybeans

Midwest corn fields dodged adverse weather all season

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They came from as far as Argentina and Singapore to walk among the soybean plants and corn stalks of the U.S. Midwest.

What they found was evidence of a record soybean crop, and a corn crop that’s also huge but not quite as big as previously thought.

The annual Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour, which ended Thursday in Rochester, Minn., has seen dozens of people — among them grain traders, analysts and money managers — travel through seven states measuring the yield potential in more than 2,000 corn and soybean fields.

Corn yields will average 171.3 bushels per acre, according to the average estimate of 15 tour participants surveyed by Bloomberg. That would just eclipse the record yield of 171 bushels recorded in 2014, though it trails the record 175.1 bushels forecast by the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Aug. 12.

The tour is an important indicator for the grain and oilseed markets, with North American harvests a few weeks away. Even if U.S. corn yields fall below expectations, the evidence gathered this week shows it’s likely that U.S. farmers will reap a record volume after boosting acreage to the third-highest since World War II.

While U.S. corn fields “dodged bullets” all season, a variety of adverse weather conditions still dented production potential, Chip Flory, editorial director of Pro Farmer, said Thursday. Some of the crop was hurt by an early cold snap in the northern part of the Midwest, heat in late June that stressed corn ears as they formed kernels, and above-normal temperatures that hampered the amount of sugar available to make heavy ears after pollination.

Those challenges were reflected in what the tour “scouts” found as they traveled hundreds of miles each day by car on pre-planned routes, stopping off at regular intervals to walk into fields to count viable corn ears and grain kernels.

Corn-yield samples taken in Minnesota, Nebraska and South Dakota dropped below the tour’s average from a year earlier, while they rose in Iowa, Illinois, Ohio and Indiana.

Soybean yields are seen at 48.8 bushels an acre, according the average of 14 estimates from tour participants. That’s just shy of the USDA’s latest projection for 48.9 bushels, an all-time high.

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