Spring planting?

Ray Grabanski Special to the Farm Forum
Farm Forum

04/17/18 — This is the time when spring planting is typically in full swing. But not today. Today in the northern Corn Belt is more of what we are used to doing in March — watching snowbanks melt. There is virtually no progress in the northern half of the Corn Belt as we’ve been locked in an extremely cold pattern that just doesn’t seem to want to end.

Crop conditions and progress came out yesterday, with planting almost non-existent in the Midwest with a big chill still in place, continuing the past month or more of very cold weather (much below normal). Corn planting advanced only 1 percent to 3 percent planted, falling 2 percent behind the normal pace. Virtually no progress is being made in the northern half of the U.S.

HRS wheat is only 3 percent planted vs. 15 percent normally, with zero progress in Minnesota, North Dakota, and only 1 percent in South Dakota (vs. 34 percent normally). This is becoming a disaster, and it’s likely at least 5-10 percent or more of HRS wheat acreage intended will be lost to corn or soybeans (later crops). Barley is 7 percent planted vs. 23 percent normally. We will likely fall further behind next week with cold weather (and snow in many areas) still hampering progress. With yield highly dependent on planting date (early planting producing higher yields, late planting usually lower) we are probably going to lose yield potential with late planting (perhaps 1-3 percent at this point). Farmers essentially harvest the sun, and early planting ensures a longer harvest season of the sun converting it into grain. Late planting is the opposite, of course.

Southern crops are faring a little better, with cotton 8 percent planted (1 percent ahead of normal), sorghum 20 percent planted (equal to normal), and rice 32 percent planted (vs. 35 percent normal). While the south isn’t ahead of normal, they’re not too terrible far from normal either so its not a disaster yet in these crops.

Pro Ag yield models of winter wheat dropped slightly yesterday on the ratings (1 percent increase in G/E to 31 percent, but 2 percent increase in very poor/poor to 37 percent), with our estimated yield at 46.72 bu (down 0.02 bu/acre from last week), and still about 5 percent below ‘trend’ (48.94 bu). So the cooler weather has slowed the decline in yield potential, but not reversed it. Rain forecast the coming week is hoped by many to improve the crop, but we’ll see just how much rain falls in the parched western HRW wheat belt. Crop development has been slowed by cold weather, with only 9 percent headed vs. 10 percent normally in winter wheat.

Today’s weather runs have reduced the precip amounts in the HRW wheat belt the coming 7 days (less coverage and amounts), but the 8-14 day forecast looks a bit wetter for HRW wheat areas. Overall, the cool weather continues in the Midwest, and that is bad for planting progress. Precip amounts are forecast below normal in the eastern Corn Belt the coming 7 days, and though cool it will help to dry out these areas from snow melt. The 8-14 day forecast (for April 24-30) looks like it finally might start to warm the U.S. (starting in the northwestern half of the U.S.). It still has a below normal temp forecast for the southeast half of the U.S., but the warmth is forecast to make its way across the U.S. as the month ends.

This is basically going to allow some planting to get started as we end the month of April (not start). This is an extremely late start to planting, and sure puts the crunch on producers. But with the right weather, the majority of the Corn Belt can plant most or all of their crop in 10 good planting days. Will we get them? God only knows at this point.

Probably the area most impacted by late planting might be HRS wheat territory. Many producers of HRS wheat are also big producers of corn and soybeans. If it warms up considerably in early May and the HRS wheat isn’t planted yet, a lot of it could be switched to corn/soybeans (which will be optimal planting time for them) as the optimal planting time for HRS wheat is in April. South Dakota will pretty much miss that mark, and that might be the state with the largest loss to warm seeded row crops.

It’s hard not to be friendly in the market with a disaster that recently unfolded in Argentina, with a loss in production that exceeds the entire large U.S. carryover of soybeans. That has huge implications on the importance of the 2018 growing season, so with a late start to planting, there really should be some premium built into the market. Currently, there isn’t much and leaves the market susceptible to further price increases. If a real problem develops, Katy-bar-the-door.

Ray Grabanski can be reached at raygrabanski@progressiveag.com.