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Red tractor and blue planter planting corn. chas53/ThinkstockPhotos

USDA crop progress: Corn planting gains momentum

Spring progress comes in slightly above analyst expectations

Corn planting progress reached 15% across the top 18 production states as of April 28, according to the latest crop progress updates from USDA, out Monday afternoon. That was slightly ahead of analyst estimates of 14%.

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This spring’s planting pace is in line with 2018 – also at 15% this time last year – but has started significantly behind the five-year average of 27%.

“Corn planting continues to lag, with all major states behind last year except for Texas,” says Farm Futures senior grain market analyst Bryce Knorr. “Growers as expected made better progress in the western Corn Belt, with slow going noted in the Great Lakes.”

Each of the top 18 production states have made some measurable progress to-date, with the xception of South Dakota, per USDA data. Leading the way so far are southern states that include Texas (65%), North Carolina (53%), Missouri (45%) and Tennessee (41%). States further north are also making progress in places like Iowa (21%) and Nebraska (16%). Two of the I States – Indiana (2%) and Illinois (9%) – remain in the single digits for now.

Another 3% of this year’s corn crop is emerged, in line with 2018 (also at 3%) and moderately behind the five-year average of 5%.

Soybean plantings are also underway, having reached 3% completion last week. However, analysts expected USDA to report 4% progress. It’s also a slower start than last year’s 5% and the prior five-year average of 6%.

“While it’s early for much soybean planted to be noted, Delta states are way behind after being deluged with rain this spring,” Knorr notes.

Of the top 18 production states, Louisiana (24%), Mississippi (20%) and Arkansas (10%) are leading the way so far, with 10 other states in the single digits last week.

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Spring wheat planting progress reached 13% last week, up from 5% the prior week. That tally is ahead of 2018’s pace of 9% but significantly behind the five-year average of 33%. The Pacific Northwest is the farthest along so far, with Washington (52%) and Idaho (61%) already past the halfway mark.

“Spring wheat seeding is still hampered by cold, wet conditions, though farmers in the key state of North Dakota finally got some ground seeded last week,” Knorr says.

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Winter wheat’s quality continues to improve, according to USDA, which rated 64% of the crop in good-to-excellent condition, bucking analyst expectations of 62%. Another 28% of the crop is rated fair (down 2% from the prior week), with the remaining 8% rated poor or very poor (unchanged from the prior week).

“Winter wheat conditions continue to improve, though perhaps by less than indicated in the gains noted in the percentage of the crop rated good to excellent,” Knorr says. “Still, yields could easily top 50 bushels per acre nationwide if conditions persist, thanks to improvement in the big states in the central and southern Plains.”

Physiologically, this year’s crop is moving along a bit slowly, however. Just 19% of the crop is now headed, which is up slightly from last year’s pace of 18% but moderately behind the prior five-year average of 29%.

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Other crops of note in the latest report include:

  • Cotton – 11% planted (up from 9% the prior week)
  • Sorghum – 20% planted (up from 17% the prior week)
  • Rice – 38% planted (up from 31% the prior week)
  • Sugarbeets – 25% planted (up from 14% the prior week)
  • Oats – 43% planted (up from 36% the prior week)
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