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USDA crop progress: Planting progress slows after a wet week

Angela Knuth combine in wheat field
Wheat harvest takes off at full speed in Texas.

Corn and soybean planting continued to deviate towards the five-year average after another week of soggy weather stalled planting progress east of the Mississippi River. For the week ending May 31, corn planting across the U.S. was 93% complete, as the five-year average of 89% for the same time period inched closer. Trade estimates had placed today’s number at 94%, but soils proved to take longer to dry out than analysts expected. Warm and dry weather early this week across the Midwest should help farmers finish their remaining fields this week.

But last week’s soggy weather did little to harm corn conditions. Condition ratings surpassed trade estimates by 3% as USDA reported 74% of the crop to be in good to excellent condition. Corn ratings improved 4% from the previous week as warm weather stimulated growing conditions. As of Sunday, 78% of the crop was emerged, up from 64% the week prior.

North Dakota reported 75% of their corn crop had been planted as of May 31, up from 54% last week. Corn growers in the Roughrider State took advantage of a week of nice weather and planted 672,000 acres across 6.2 days suitable for fieldwork. But North Dakota’s last prevented plant date for corn was Sunday. The Peace Garden state will likely fall 800,000 acres short of their 3.2 million-acre corn planting intention outlined by USDA for the 2020 growing season.

Soybean planting progress also drifted closer to the five-year average in the latest Crop Progress report, though maintained steady pace. As of May 31, 75% of the nation’s soybean crop was in the ground, led by rapid paces in the Central Plains. States in the Mississippi Delta continued to struggle to complete planting progress, though those states are generally among the lower soybean producers in the country.

Soybean crop conditions entered their first week of the Crop Progress reporting series at 70% good to excellent, buoyed by warming temperatures and sufficient rainfall. As of May 31, 52% of the crop emerged, up from 35% a week ago and the five-year average of 44%.

Plagued by yet another cold and wet spring, North Dakota had only planted 51% of their soybean crop as of Sunday. While the Peace Garden State made rapid gains from last week’s total of 29%, they remained well behind the five-year average of 80% complete for the same time period.

But with 3.23 million soybean acres left to be planted, North Dakota still has time to complete their 6.6 million-acre goal for the season before the June 10 prevented plant deadline. After planting nearly 1.5 million acres last week, the likelihood this acreage intention will be met becomes greater with every clear weather day in the forecast this week. And the Roughrider State could see an additional acreage boost from spring wheat acres that went unplanted this year.

About 91% of the nation’s spring wheat crop was planted as of Sunday, 5% lower than the five-year average for the same time period. North Dakota continued to hold back planting progress, with only 52% of intended acres planted as of May 31, which coincided with the first round of prevented plant dates in the state.

North Dakota’s final prevented plant date is Friday, June 5. It seems unlikely that the Roughrider State will complete the remaining 3.2 million acres of spring wheat sowings in the next four days, especially considering diminished yield potential for spring wheat crops planted after the middle of May. But there is a strong possibility these acres will shift into soybeans, provided supply chains can support a last-minute shift.

Despite planting delays in the Northern Plains resulting in only 67% of the crop emerging as of Sunday, the spring wheat crop was in strong condition for the week ending May 31. USDA rated the crop as 80% good to excellent in the first reporting week for spring wheat conditions, soaring past trade projections of 66% good to excellent.

Winter wheat ratings slipped 3% from the previous week to 51% good to excellent for the week ending May 31 as a heat wave across the Southern Plains over the weekend dried out the crop. Crops reached full maturity in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and California, exacerbated by dry weather.

About 77% of the winter wheat crop was headed, up from 68% a week ago but 4% behind the five-year average. Harvest kickstarted in Texas, North Carolina, Arkansas, and California. About 3% of the crop was harvested, 1% ahead of the five-year average, led by rapid combining pace in Texas where 32% of winter wheat had been harvested compared to the five-year average of 21% for the same period.

Soils began drying out last week, as subsoil moisture levels dropped 2% from the previous week to 85% adequate to surplus levels. Topsoil surplus moisture levels dropped 5% to 17%, which should allow for faster planting progress in the Eastern Corn Belt and Mississippi River Valley this week.

Pasture conditions rose 1% from the previous week to 51% good to excellent, which came as welcome news to cattle farmers scrambling to house animals caught in the supply chain backlog as meat processors struggle to ramp up capacity amid COVID-19 outbreaks among staffers.

For more details about planting progress and condition ratings, the weekly Crop Progress is accessible at the following link.

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