US farmers are lagging on spring sowings by an area bigger than Hungary thanks to cold and wet conditions in northern states, official data showed, amid concerns that the extent of the lag “could impact planting decisions”.

The typical late-April speed-up in US plantings failed to materialize, leaving growers behind the average sowings pace for all but one, cotton, of the top 10 crops, US Department of Agriculture data overnight showed.

Comparing sowings progress data for these crops with the areas that farmers intend to plant, as revealed in a March 31 USDA briefing, implies that they have seeded a little over 29m acres so far.

That compares with the 53m acres they would have sown, had plantings progressed at five-year average rates for each crop.

The lag of nearly 24m acres is equivalent in area to the state of Indiana, or more than twice the size of Denmark.

US corn sowings progress, at 14% complete, stood at less than half the 33% typically achieved by the start of May, and represented the slowest performance since 2013.

Soybean plantings, at 8% finished, were five points slower than the norm.

‘Further delayed’

The shortfall reflects largely wet and cold conditions in northerly Midwest states, including Minnesota, a big producer of corn and spring wheat, where 29% of topsoil was rated as holding “surplus” moisture as of Sunday.

“Another cold, wet week further delayed planting across most of the state, with just 1.1 days suitable for fieldwork,” the USDA’s Minnesota bureau said, reporting spring wheat seedings in the state, at 1% complete, running 23 points behind the average pace.

Corn sowings, usually 28% finished as of the start of May, have yet to begin in earnest in the state.

“Very limited corn and soybean planting has taken place, but both remain below 1% planted.”

‘Progress well behind’

In North Dakota, the top spring wheat-producing state, farmers also managed only 1% planting progress for the crop last week, leaving them, at 5% complete, 13 points behind the usual pace.

The Corn Belt state of Indiana reported that plantings “inched forward” last week, as the “continued wet and cool weather limited progress.”

“A midweek break in the rains allowed some growers to get started with corn and soybean planting, though planting progress for both crops was well behind their respective five-year averages.”

Ohio officials said that “below-average temperatures and excess moisture continued to slow fieldwork activities”, while Iowa, the biggest corn growing state, noting “rain and cold conditions”, said that sowings of the grain had reached 9% – running 33 points behind the average rate.

In time terms, Iowa corn sowings were running nine days behind the average pace, state officials said.

‘Could impact planting decisions’

Fertilizer group Nutrien, reporting some dent to its fertilizer sales thanks to the slow early pace of plantings, said that the delays “could result in a shortened planting window compared to 2021”.

Indeed, the lag “could impact planting decisions”. Crops such as corn have an earlier sowings deadline than faster-growing alternatives such as soybeans.