Wet corn, big yields

By Doug Tenney, Leist Mercantile

Having lost her father in July of 2022, Cindy chose to invite her dad’s lifelong best friend and his wife to our home for lunch. John is 93 years old and has an incredible memory. Growing up on a small dairy farm in Hocking County with no electricity or running water instilled in him a lifelong work ethic. John and Cindy’s father became telegraphers with the C&O Railroad, actually working at the Canal Winchester Depot with my grandfather. Both friends retired from the Chessie System as dispatchers. John recalled the excitement of having a neighbor who owned the first horse-drawn crop harvester in the area, while I shared stories about riding in the combines of today. What an interesting personal history lesson as our deep respect for the legacy of the industry grows even deeper.

The Oct. 22 Weekly Crop Progress Report detailed the U.S. corn harvest was 59% complete. The 5-year average was 54%. Ohio lagged considerably behind that pace at only 20% done, with a 5-year average at 36%. In mid-September, my speculation was that the Ohio harvest pace could be as much as two weeks behind normal. That prediction seems to be on pace with central Ohio producers. Some of those same producers who have been done by Nov. 1 in past years are already suggesting they might be lucky to finish harvesting by Thanksgiving.

The smoke from the western Canadian wild fires of nearly two weeks has likely been a factor for the current slow crop maturity. Agronomists have pointed out that the Ohio 2023 growing degree units are nearly 390 heat units behind last year, another factor in the slow maturity. Corn moisture levels the third week of October ranged from 18% to 30% in parts of central Ohio, higher than producers had hoped. Many Ohio producers were quick to point out that drying corn to levels desired for home bin storage took much longer than usual with huge amounts of propane or natural gas consumed. During that week, 4 days of 70 degrees or more played a role in corn moisture levels finally dropping to more reasonable levels. Last year, some Ohio producers used minimal energy for drying corn.

Last, but not least, the real reason the Ohio corn harvest at 20% lagged that of the U.S. at 59%: there is a huge amount of corn in Ohio this year. Many producers have been completely surprised at the corn yields they are receiving in spite of much below normal summer rain fall. The main theme for some Ohio producers indicates corn yields are 20 to 40 bushels above average. Some producers even report both corn and soybean yields this year will be record-setting. Late October to this reading could easily be a period of slow harvest activity for corn due to rain delays or long lines at grain facilities. Some elevators at this writing were limiting wet corn inbound trucks due to the sheer volume of corn which has to be dried.  

South America weather issues continue much longer than earlier suggested. Argentina remains in a drought for the second year in a row. Weekend rains of October 20-22 will help crop development. However, those rains are not of drought busting magnitude. Dry conditions in central and northern Brazil were still taking place into the first weekend of November. Much below normal water depths in the Amazon River basin indicate the severity of drought conditions in that region.

U.S. grain exports are finally seeing some optimism following months of disappointing, dismal activity this summer and into September. During the last full week of October, U.S. soybean export loadings were 90 million bushels, the largest in 50 weeks. In addition, U.S. corn export sales were 53 million bushels in a rare event when corn sales eclipsed those of soybeans at nearly 51 million bushels. That week, soybean sales were the largest since the beginning of the marketing year on Sept. 1. Corn sales were the second largest in this marketing year as well.

Harvest lows for corn and soybeans are in place for some analysts. The western Corn Belt is not seeing bushels move to town as expected, with basis levels increasing while that region is still in harvest mode. Ohio has seen harvest basis levels for soybeans 20 to 30 cents wider than normal. Corn basis levels are at least a dime wider than normal in numerous Ohio locations.

Thought for the day.” Agriculture is our wisest pursuit, because it will in the end contribute most to real wealth, good morals, and happiness.” – Thomas Jefferson.

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