US farmers sowed an area nearly half the size of Switzerland in a week as “anomalously hot” weather allowed a fieldwork catch-up – although the conditions also scotched a revival in the historically-poor winter wheat crop.
US growers planted 46m acres (18.7m hectares) with the top 10 crops, from corn to peanuts, in the week to Sunday, GrainPriceNews analysis of US Department of Agriculture data shows.
While they remained behind the typical pace, the acceleration reduced the lag to 29.5m acres, from more than 40m acres the previous week.
Progress was particularly strong in corn, of which farmers completed more than one-quarter of their intended plantings over the week, to take total seedings to 49%.
The slow start in corn, which has a relatively early close to its planting window, had raised concerns that farmers may not be able to finish their seedings, and switch some area to slightly later-sown crops such as soybeans.
‘Anomalously hot conditions’
The pick-up in the planting pace reflected warmer and drier conditions thanks, according to Justin Glisan, state climatologist in the USDA’s Iowa bureau, to a “strong blocking ridge within the atmospheric flow”.
“Anomalously hot conditions blanketed much of the central United States,” he said, with Iowa itself – the top corn-growing state, and second-ranked soybean producer – recording “significantly drier and warmer weather”.
Indeed, Iowa farmers planted 43% of their corn, plus 27% of their soybeans, last week.
Growers in Illinois – the second-ranked corn producer and top soy grower, where the improved conditions dried out fields such that only 17% of area was rated with “surplus” topsoil moisture, down from 50% the week before – also planted 27% of their soybeans, plus 40% of their corn.
In Indiana, the third of the Corn Belt’s so-called “I states”, growers also made strong progress as “hot and mostly dry weather delivered ideal conditions for fieldwork”.
‘Farmers abandoned their wheat’
The conditions proved helpful too to Corn Belt winter wheat crops, which had been struggling amid excessively wet conditions.
In Illinois, a major grower of soft red winter wheat, the proportion of the crop rated “good” or “excellent” recovered by 7 points week on week to 52%, with the likes of Indiana and Ohio seeing recoveries too.
However, the proportion of the overall US winter wheat crop fell by 2 points nonetheless back to 27% – reversing the improvement of the previous week, to return to the lowest reading of the century – with the heat proving less welcome in southern Plains states where hard red winter wheat was already struggling with drought.
In Kansas, the top winter wheat-growing state, the proportion of the winter wheat crop rated good or excellent dipped by 4 points last week to 24% as fields dried out further.
The proportion of Kansas topsoil rated “short” or “very short” of moisture rose by 6 points week on week to top 50%.
In Texas, where the proportion of topsoil short or very short of moisture increased to 85%, “some producers… abandoned their wheat plantings,” USDA scouts said.
‘Heavy rainfall limited farmers’
By contrast in the northern US spring wheat belt, wet weather hung on to impede plantings of the grain in states including top producer North Dakota.
In Minnesota, farmers have sowed just 5% of their spring wheat – compared with a typical 75% by now.
“Storms and heavy rainfall limited farmers to 2.4 days suitable for fieldwork,” USDA scouts said.
Overall spring wheat sowings advanced by 12 points week on week. But, at 39% complete, progress was 28 points behind the typical pace, increasing the lag from the 20 points recorded the week before.