Early summer-like weather brings planting booms

Apr 20, 2012

Tuesday, April 17 brought USDA’s most recent crop progress report. A minor electrical fire at the USDA offices caused the report’s release to be delayed a day. Despite the reporting setback, plantings are moving ahead early with farmers taking advantage of the good weather in many growing areas.


Corn plantings have been strong compared to last year and the five-year average. Overall, for the week ending on April 15, U.S. farmers had planted 17 percent of the corn crop. This is as compared to last year when plantings as of April 15 stood at only 5 percent, the same figure shared by the fiveyear average. Earlier projections for this week placed plantings at 17-20 percent, so the results are not a surprise and are being called neutral.

Some of the biggest early planters this year are in the Eastern Corn Belt region. Illinois and Indiana were particularly noteworthy. Illinois’ corn plantings as of April 15 stood at 41 percent—as compared to 8 percent for the same week last year—and up 24 percent from the prior week’s plantings. Indiana’s corn planting jumped to 24 percent, up from the prior week’s 6 percent. This time last year, Indiana’s corn plantings stood at only 2 percent.

The Western Corn Belt region has lagged behind its eastern counterpart but is still ahead of its five-year average. Well-known corn state Iowa had only 5 percent of its anticipated corn crop planted by the week ending April 15, up from its 1 percent planting this time last year. The five-year average stands at 3 percent. States such as Colorado, South Dakota and Nebraska had similar planting numbers.

A couple states in the south had some impressive numbers. Tennessee had 80 percent of its corn crop planted as of April 15 as opposed to last year’s 17 percent and the five-year average of 25 percent. North Carolina had 54 percent planted last week, compared to last year’s 29 percent and the five-year average of 36.

The only state among those reported which saw a decrease in planting percentages as compared to last year and the five-year average was Texas due to the longstanding drought. As of April 15, Texas had 54 percent of its corn planted compared with 56 percent last year and the five-year average of 59 percent.

Summer-like spring weather and rainfall in many areas is credited with this strong, early planting trend. USDA also expects this year’s corn crop to be the largest in 75 years. The rainfall which is helping the early planting drive resulted in a drop in corn prices, allaying fears that there would be insufficient ground moisture to sustain some of these early plantings.


Though attention is generally planted squarely on corn, the behavior of wheat has been noteworthy. The winter wheat crop is heading earlier—at 29 percent as of April 15, compared to last year’s 11 percent and the 8 percent of the five-year average—which may open up the possibility of second-crop soybeans. Of course, the early winter wheat prospects are good news to cattle feeders who may incorporate wheat into their feeding.

According to CME Group, however, the optimistic view of the early-heading wheat is tempered by weather possibilities.

“A crop that is heading this early is vulnerable to a late April freeze but should this not occur, the chances of a bigger than expected supply become more realistic.”

The condition of the winter wheat crop is largely good at 50 percent. Overall wheat condition has improved from the previous year’s rating, with 64 percent being rated good to excellent this year as compared with 36 percent last year.

As with corn, spring wheat planting numbers are head and shoulders above last year’s and the five-year average’s levels. Overall plantings stood at 37 percent, up from both last year’s numbers and the five-year averages, 5 and 9 percent, respectively. South Dakota was leading the race with 83 percent of its spring wheat crop planted. This compares to last year’s 7 percent and the 13 percent five-year average.

North Dakota and Minnesota far outstripped last year’s nonexistent planting numbers with 27 and 56 percent, respectively, of their spring wheat crop planted as of April 15. This compares with respective five-year average plantings of 2 and 6 percent.

Of the six spring wheat states, only Washington was behind its last year and fiveyear average numbers. As of April 15, Washington farmers had planted only 30 percent of their spring wheat, down from 37 percent last year and a 49 percent fiveyear average.

Oats, barley and sorghum

Other crops saw surges from the mild winter and summer-like spring weather. Oats planting was reported at 76 percent compared to a 48 percent fiveyear average. Oats emergence was also ahead of the five-year average at 51 percent versus 37 percent. Barley plantings stood at 33 percent versus the 17 percent five-year average, and barley emergence was 5 percent, 2 percent more than the five-year average.

Sorghum was the only unremarkable crop in the report. Plantings stood at 18 percent, in keeping with the five-year average but down a percent from last year. Planting reports for soy are expected to begin April 23. — Kerry Halladay, WLJ Editor