‘Strange start’ leads to delay in US feed crop planting

By Aerin Einstein-Curtis contact

- Last updated on GMT

© iStock/oticki
© iStock/oticki
After a wet start to the feed crop-planting season, some states are making progress with corn and starting to get soybeans in the ground, says the USDA. 

Details​ of the planting progress were released early this week by the US Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS).

A warm, dry spell in February transitioned to a cooler, wetter March and a rainy April that has delayed some fieldwork, said Jim Angel, State Climatologist for Illinois earlier this month. “It’s been one of the strangest starts to a growing season I’ve seen in Illinois,”​ he added.

Wet weather

In the Midwest, April tends to be a “wetter”​ month than March, said Angel. “[When we] get into April, May and June, those are some of the wettest months of the year, and we can get a sizable amount of precipitation,”​ he added.

“We’re in a holding pattern until it gets a little dryer,” ​he said. “The soil moisture looks pretty good, but we’re just waiting for things to dry out a little bit.”

However, he said, with the warmer weather, it may only take a short break in the rain to dry fields sufficiently for fieldwork to continue. “[And,] if you start the growing season with good soil moisture it will carry you almost through June even if we run into trouble,”​ he added.

Thus far into the planting season, about 17% of cropland acres in the 48 continental US states are reported as having surplus topsoil moisture, a drop from 18% the week before, but in excess of the 13% seen at this point last year, said the NASS. Additionally, 14% of acres are reported having surplus subsoil moisture – above the 10% found last year at this time.

Corn plantings

Overall US feed corn planting remains behind both where it was at this point last year and the multi-year average established in 2012-2016, said the USDA.

Last year about 28% of the crop was in the ground by this point and on average about 18% of the crop is planted, the agency said. However, this year about 17% has been planted.

Among the 18 states responsible for the majority of the corn crop, there are a few states that are meeting or exceeding where they were on average, these include Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Nebraska and Texas, said the agency. And, there are four states outpacing where they were at this point last year: Colorado, Nebraska, Ohio and Texas.

However, the amount of corn that has started to sprout is more in keeping both with last year’s results and the average emergence, said NASS. On average, and last year, about 4% of the corn crop had emerged at this point in the year – an amount matched by this year.  

Soy prospects

However, along with the uptick in soy acres, more of the crop has been planted by this point in the year than either what was seen last year, or what is usually in the ground at this point, said the NASS. On average, about 3% of the crop has been planted and last year 3% was in the ground by this time.

Acres expected to be planted in soy increased by 7% to 89.5m this year, said the USDA in the prospective plantings report​released at the end of March.

This year, about 6% of the crop is in the ground for the 18 states responsible for the majority of the soybean crop, said the agency. However, several states including Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin have not started planting the crop yet.

Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska and Tennessee are ahead of both where they were last year, and their multi-year planting average for the crop, said the agency.

Wheat crop details

The winter wheat crop is progressing somewhat more quickly than in past years, with about 32% having headed, up from 24% last year and average of 23%, reported NASS. However, condition scores for the crop at this point are slightly behind last year’s results.

For spring wheat the planting and emergency process has been slower than past years, typically about 34% of the crop is planted by this point, and about 40% was completed last year, said the agency. This year 22% has been planted and only 5% has emerged.

Feed crop details

Planting for the reduced sorghum crop has been moving at an improved pace compared to previous years for the 11 states that are responsible for the majority of the crop, reported NASS. About 24% of the crop has been planted at this point, up from 23% on average and 19% at this point last year.

Acres to be planted dropped from 6.69m to 5.76m this year, reported the USDA.

However, planting for sugarbeets had reached 58% completion by this point last year, and on average about 44% is planted by this point, said NASS. This year, about 36% of the planting has been finished for the four states involved.

Planting and emergence for the oat crop also is behind where it typically is at this point in the year, said the agency. About 57% of the crop has been planted, down from an average completion of 62% and last year’s 69%.

Barley also has seen a slower progress into the ground and in sprouting, said the agency. About 27% has been planted and 7% emerged both of which are behind last year’s position and the multi-year average established. 

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