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August 12, 2004

State corn yields could tie record; soybeans still in question

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Indiana corn crops are on pace to tie a state record yield this fall, with soybeans still a question mark heading toward harvest, said state agricultural and Purdue University experts.

Hoosier farmers are projected to produce 826.8 million bushels of corn, at an average yield of 156 bushels per acre. If realized, the yield average would finish 10 bushels per acre ahead of 2003 and equal the state record set in 2001. Indiana soybean growers are expected to produce a 244.4 million bushel crop, at an average yield of 45 bushels per acre. While the soybean yield projection is 7 bushels better than 2003, production could go up or down depending on late-season weather.

The harvest predictions were presented today (Thursday, Aug. 12) at the Indiana State Fair. Among the speakers were Greg Preston, director of the Indiana Agricultural Statistics Service (IASS); Chris Hurt, Purdue agricultural economist; and Lt. Gov. Kathy Davis, who also serves as the state's commissioner of agriculture.

The morning news briefing coincided with the release of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's monthly crop production report.

"This looks like a tremendous year, particularly for corn," Hurt said. "We've seen improvement in the crop even in the last few weeks. Corn is not nearly as hard a call to make because the crop is so far along in development. But with soybeans, the market is scratching its head, with some arguing that the production numbers could go higher and others saying that with gaps in the crop the numbers might not be as strong.

"For now, let's say we'll have an average soybean crop until we see which way this crop is going."

The uncertainty in soybean yields is complicated by this summer's unusually cool temperatures, Hurt said. Soybeans mature later in the crop season and, thus, are more sensitive to changes in weather conditions.

"What is going to happen to the crop this August? What does this cool weather mean for soybeans? When could we have our first frost, and how much of the soybean crop could get nipped? Those all are important questions," Hurt said.

Compared to 2003 when ill-timed storms pushed planting back in many Indiana counties, Hoosier farmers have enjoyed a relatively problem-free 2004 crop year, Preston said.

"Planting was completed very early in many counties," Preston said. "As soon as soil temperatures were warm and fields dry, farmers worked day and night to get the crop planted."

Corn planting raced at a record clip the first week of May, with 87 percent of the state's crop in the ground by May 9, Preston said. Almost half the soybean crop was planted in early May, also well ahead of schedule.

"We were two weeks ahead of our normal planting pace for corn and soybeans," Preston said.

June storms flooded out some crop fields, but farmers were able to replant many of those acres. Then the mercury dropped.

"The cool temperatures slowed crop development," Preston said. "As of Aug. 1, the crop was one week ahead of schedule."

Still, projected corn yields are running ahead of 2003 in eight of the nine agricultural regions IASS tracks. Farmers in the west-central region are expected to post the highest average yields, at 159 bushels per acre. At the other end of the spectrum, average corn yields in the south-central region are projected at 135 bushels per acre, off 3 bushels from one year ago, Preston said.

Increases in average soybean yields are projected for all nine Indiana agricultural regions, with the central region leading the way at 48 bushels per acre, Preston said.

A possible record-tying corn crop means farmers should expect cash prices to level off in the near term, Hurt said. He predicts harvesttime prices between $2 and $2.20 per bushel. Hurt believes soybean prices will range from $5.25-$5.50 per bushel in the coming weeks, climbing to around $5.75 a bushel at harvest.

Hurt said farm income from crops might not be as high as in 2003. He said farmers could be in position to qualify for government Loan Deficiency Payments (LDPs). He also encouraged producers to arrange for grain storage space.

"We're looking for cropping income to be down somewhat from last year because of lower prices and the higher cost of production, particularly for corn," Hurt said. "On corn, farmers need to go back and review LDPs because there may very well be LDP opportunities at harvest.

"I'm looking for soybean yields to get better. This presents an opportunity for producers to do more forward pricing."

Based on the production estimates, Indiana farmers could be handling 80 million more bushels of corn and soybeans than in 2003. Storage will be critical, he said.

Davis said the state stands ready to assist farmers in locating storage space. She said the crop production estimates are mostly good news for Hoosier producers.

"Two-thirds of the farm income in Indiana comes from grain, with corn and soybeans being the largest crops," she said.

The USDA's national crop report forecasts U.S. corn production at 10.9 billion bushels, at an average yield of 148.9 bushels per acre – both records. U.S. soybean production is estimated at 2.88 billion bushels, at an average yield of 39.1 bushels per acre. Should the projection hold true, the soybean harvest would be the second largest on record.

Writer: Steve Leer, (765) 494-8415, sleer@purdue.edu

Sources: Chris Hurt, (765) 494-4273, hurtc@purdue.edu

Greg Preston, (765) 494-8371, gregory_preston@nass.usda.gov

Related Web sites:

U.S. Department of Agriculture August crop production report

Ag Communications: (765) 494-2722; Beth Forbes, forbes@purdue.edu
Agriculture News Page


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