Planting near standstill, wheat ratings slip

by Ron Sterk
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WASHINGTON — The effects of cool, wet weather were evident with minimal gains in planting during the latest week, while winter wheat conditions slipped slightly despite improved moisture conditions in the dry hard red winter wheat region as of April 21, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said in its weekly Crop Progress report released April 22.

Corn planting in the 18 major growing states was 4% completed as of April 21, up slightly from 2% a week earlier but well behind 26% at the same time last year and 16% as the 2008-12 average for the date, the U.S.D.A. said. Planting had not yet begun in top-producing Iowa (14% planted as the five-year average for the date), or in Colorado (8% average), Michigan (7%), Minnesota (11%), Nebraska (8%), North Dakota (4%), South Dakota (4%) and Wisconsin (4%). Corn planting was only 1% completed in Illinois (24% average), Indiana (16%) and Ohio (12%).

Spring wheat planting also made minimal progress with 7% of the crop seeded in the six major states as of April 21, up from 6% a week earlier and compared with 52% a year ago and 24% as the five-year average for the date. Cold weather and remaining snow cover kept field work at a standstill in the Upper Midwest with the only gains recorded in the Pacific Northwest states. Planting had yet to begin in top-producing North Dakota (15% average progress for the date), or in Minnesota (30% average). Planting was 6% completed in South Dakota (40% average), 6% in Montana (23%), 59% in Idaho (47%) and 71% in Washington (55%).

Sugar beet planting also made slow progress with 16% of the crop planted in the four major states, up from 13% a week earlier and compared with 58% a year ago and 34% as the five-year average. There were no beets planted as of April 21 in the two largest producing states of Minnesota and North Dakota.  

Winter wheat conditions, meanwhile, actually slipped in the latest week. The aggregate rating for the 18 major winter wheat states as of April 21 was 35% good to excellent (down slightly from 36% a week earlier and compared with 63% a year ago), 32% fair (33% last week and 27% last year) and 33% poor to very poor (31% and 10%).

As has been the case all season, mostly poor ratings in the hard red winter wheat states pulled down the overall average despite mostly good to excellent ratings in the soft winter states. In the latest week there were both hard winter and soft winter states that showed improving and declining conditions.

Poor to very poor ratings increased in Kansas and Colorado, but declined significantly in South Dakota, Nebraska and Texas, although good to excellent ratings in those states remained abysmal. In the soft winter states, good to excellent ratings improved modestly in Illinois, Ohio and North Carolina, while poor to very poor ratings saw mostly minor changes.

There was additional snowfall forecast for parts of the Upper Midwest hard spring wheat and sugar beet areas and another possible freeze for parts of the Southwest hard winter wheat area. But forecasters also predicted warmer, drier conditions next week, which may allow planting progress in the Corn Belt.

Last week the U.S. Drought Monitor showed the area of exceptional drought in the northern parts of the hard red winter wheat region (especially North Dakota and Nebraska) had declined considerably, and that moderate or worse drought conditions had receded to less than 50% of the contiguous United States for the first time since June 19, 2012.
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