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Use In-season Crop Data for Better Decisions

Data-rich crop progress reports can help you spot trends throughout the growing season.

When you want to check out the weather or see how your crops are doing, you look out the window or walk your fields. That’s great information — if you’re planning a picnic or evaluating your fertility program. But you need a broader view when making cropping or marketing decisions.

As easily as you pop open a weather app on your mobile device, you can access the latest crop progress reports from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). Every Monday at 4 p.m. Eastern time, weekly reports deliver updates on everything from corn to cotton and from sorghum to soybeans in each crop’s top-producing states.

Each report provides week-to-week and year-to-year crop-condition comparisons. It also tracks crop development — soybeans blooming, cotton setting bolls, spring wheat headed, etc. — compared with the week and year before, along with the five-year average. For example, this week’s report, for the week ending July 12, showed:

  • The U.S. soybean crop was rated 62 percent good or excellent, down from 63 percent the week before.
  • Sixty-five percent of the winter wheat crop has been harvested, compared with a 68 percent five-year average.
  • The U.S. peanut crop is in slightly better shape this year (15 percent excellent) than it was last year (11 percent excellent).

Although your favorite farm broadcaster or ag website likely provides highlights and analysis of each weekly report before you have time to digest the data on your own, accessing and reviewing the full reports can add insight. Following market-impacting trends during the growing season can help you anticipate price moves. Then, as the planting season approaches, USDA planting intentions surveys can help you make cropping decisions heading into spring planting. If those data whet your appetite, the USDA NASS website helps you feed that hunger as you dig into all kinds of farm statistics, from livestock inventories to state-by-state crop production to cheddar cheese prices.

As you watch your crops mature toward harvest, compare the progress with crops across the country. You just may spot a marketing opportunity. At the very least, you’ll make better-informed decisions.

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