Area for harvest is forecast at 74.6 million acres, down 1% June but up 1% from 2011. Harvested area, if realized, will be the fourth largest on record.

Planting conditions this spring were much improved from last year when severe flooding in several areas during April contributed to delays in soybean planting. Planting of this year’s soybean crop was underway in all 18 major states by the end of April. Heavy showers fell across parts of the northern and western Corn Belt during the first week of May, but very little precipitation occurred in the major soybean growing areas for the remainder of the month, allowing planting to remain at a pace ahead of last year and the five-year average. As of June 3, soybean planting had reached 94% complete, more than 30 percentage points ahead of last year’s pace and 19 percentage points ahead of normal.

Emergence of the soybean crop began ahead of last year and the five-year average, and remained ahead of normal pace throughout May and June. By June 17, emergence had advanced to 95%, 18 percentage points ahead of last year and 14 percentage points ahead of the five-year average. Progress for blooming and setting pods followed a very similar pattern to emergence for soybeans, as progress for both remained several points ahead of last year’s pace and the five-year average throughout June and July. As of July 29, 88% of the nation’s crop was blooming, 16 percentage points ahead of last year and 13 percentage points ahead of normal. Fifty-five percent of the acreage was setting pods by July 29, 26 percentage points ahead of last year and 20 percentage points ahead of normal.

Although hot, dry weather has helped the soybean crop mature rapidly this year, the heat and lack of rainfall has taken a toll on the condition of the crop. As of June 3, the earliest date soybean conditions have ever been published, 65% of the crop was rated as good to excellent. However, condition ratings deteriorated during June and July as drought conditions worsened across much of the Midwest. By July 29, only 29% of the crop was rated as good to excellent. This is the second lowest good to excellent rating on record for that week since records began in 1980, only better than 1988 when 24% of the crop was rated as good to excellent.