US Midwest Weather - Near Perfect, But Maturity Lags

(Freese Notis) -- Crop condition ratings released this week showed that the Nation's corn and soybean crops continue to grind their way back towards respectability. Corn ratings at 49 percent good/15 percent excellent compares to ratings at just 48 percent good/9 percent excellent just four weeks ago and is not far below last year's crop which was 46 percent good/18 percent excellent at this same time. Historically this is a time frame when corn ratings have generally held steady or even dipped a bit, which makes the improvement seen over the past month that much more impressive. Soybean ratings did not improve all that much this week with the rating of 48 percent good/11 percent excellent, but has shown some improvement since the middle of June (when it was 49 percent good and 7 percent excellent) and is also not far below the ratings of last year (49 percent good and 13 percent excellent at this same time).

Chances are good that we will see at least steady, if not improved, ratings for next week's report. Coming into this week, clearly the area of the Corn Belt that needed the rain the most was the northwestern part of the region, and that same area is in a near-perfect set-up for a widespread soaking for the middle and latter parts of this week. I still expect that this activity will get kicked off tonight, and very well could last through a good part of the coming weekend. South Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska, Wisconsin, and northwestern Iowa look to be target areas for rains that will eventually total at least one to two inches and locally much, much heavier. It is going to be a while before any of that rain works into southeastern parts of the Midwest, but excellent rains in a lot of that area last weekend means that crops should improve there this week despite the lack of rain.

Rather than crop ratings, maybe the biggest fear right now should be how slow the crops are maturing. Corn crops in most of the Midwest have barely begun to tassel, while normally we are well over one-third of the way through that stage and we were around halfway through that stage last year at this time. Agronomists have determined that it takes about 60 days for corn to reach maturity after the time its starts to silk. We have just 13 percent of the Nation's corn crop silking this week, so we will have 87 percent of the crop maturing this year sometime after September 11 (versus the 5-year average of 64 percent and 50 percent with last year's crop).