In brief, the U.S. corn crop was pegged at 11.741 billion bushels, up 128 million from last month. The soybean crop was placed at 3.15 billion bushels, up 43 million from October. Wheat production, however, was trimmed by six million bushels. We'll have more on USDA's crop and ending stocks reports in a moment.
The markets, which found the reports mildly bearish, already were pondering an unexpected midweek surprise. The USDA on Wednesday confirmed America's first case of soybean rust in Louisiana. The yield-busting disease was found on two plots of a Louisiana State University research farm near Baton Rouge.
Greg Tylka, Plant Pathologist, Iowa State University: "We've been planning for this day, for this announcement for the past two years. And we hoped that we wouldn't have to spring into action for another year or two, but we feel fairly well prepared and we knew this day would come at some point."
Iowa State University Plant Pathologist Greg Tylka (TILK-uh) coordinated training sessions last summer for hundreds of crop experts learning to identify soybean rust.
Tylka claims weather conditions will determine when the disease will reach the top soybean-producing states in the Midwest.
Greg Tylka, Plant Pathologist, Iowa State University: "The 2004 growing season would have been a sonder frul year for rust 'cause we had fairly moderate temperatures and lots of moisture. If 2005 is a hot, dry year for Iowa, or the upper Midwest, the soybean belt, rust will have much less impact than if the weather in 2005 is moist and cool again."
The fungus begins as small lesions on the lower leaves of the plant that increase in size and change from gray to reddish brown on the undersides of the leaves.
Soybean rust is spread primarily by wind-borne spores capable of travelling long distances. The government believes the first U.S. case is related to this year's active hurricane season.
With this year's soybean harvest complete, producers are turning their attention to next year's growing season. And experts claim early detection is the key to minimizing the effects of the disease.
David Wright, Iowa Soybean Association: "There isn't a whole lot of time between identification of soybean rust and treatment to minimize yield loss."
While soybean rust can be devastating, the disease can be managed through the judicious use of fungicides. Additional fungicide expenses could cost growers up to $25 per acre to control the disease.
According to the Iowa Soybean Association, losses due to soybean rust could reach into the billions of dollars.