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U.S. Corn Harvest Accelerates Before Rain; Soy Ratings Unchanged

U.S. farmers were able to accelerate the corn harvest last week ahead of heavy rains from the remnants of Hurricane Isaac, which may have arrived too late to help the drought-damaged crop. Soybean conditions were unchanged.

About 10 percent of the corn was harvested as of Sept. 2, compared with 6 percent a week earlier, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said today in a report. About 41 percent of the crop was rated mature, up from 26 percent a week earlier and the prior five-year average of 16 percent. Parts of the Midwest received as much as 6 inches of rain the past four days, according to World Weather Inc.

“Corn is maturing very quickly and not much weight can be added to the kernels from the recent rains,” Emerson Nafziger, an agronomist at the University of Illinois in Urbana, said in a telephone interview. The crop may have suffered further damage because corn stalks are weak and susceptible to being blown over by strong winds and heavy rain, he said.

Through Aug. 31, corn futures surged 44 percent since the end of May as the drought tightened its grip on the Midwest, prompting the United Nations last month to predict higher global food costs.

About 30 percent of the nation’s soybeans, which are harvested later than corn, were rated good or excellent as of Sept. 2, unchanged from a week earlier, the USDA said. Approximately 19 percent of the plants were dropping leaves, a sign of maturity, up from 8 percent a week earlier and 9 percent, on average, during the prior five years.

“Only a very small portion of the crop was able to take up the water to benefit yields,” Nafziger said. “There’s unlikely to be many positive yield surprises this year” from late-season rain, he said.

Crop ratings are the worst for this time of year since 1988, when corn production plunged 31 percent from a year earlier and soybeans declined 20 percent. This year, output of the grain will fall 13 percent to 10.779 billion bushels, the smallest since 2006, the USDA said Aug. 10. The soybean harvest may be 12 percent smaller at 2.692 billion bushels. The government will update its crop forecasts on Sept. 12.

About 50 percent of the nine-state Midwest region was in severe to exceptional drought as of Aug. 28, compared with 51 percent a week earlier and less than 1 percent a year earlier, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jeff Wilson in Chicago at tdreibus@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steve Stroth at sstroth@bloomberg.net.

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