Feedback from the Field: Corn planting advances, Upper Midwest still left behind

Getty/iStockphoto Young corn no-till planted into stubble.
While many growers across the country finish planting corn and spring wheat, producers in North Dakota, Minnesota continue to battle wet weather

Author’s note: You can participate in the Feedback from the Field series as often as you’d like this growing season! Just click this link to take the survey and share updates about your farm’s spring progress. I review and upload results daily to the FFTF Google MyMap, so farmers can see others’ responses from across the country – or even across the county!

Planting season is likely inching towards a close in much of the Midwest, according to the recent week’s Feedback from the Field responses. Rapid emergence rates were recorded in the FFTF series over the past week as hot weather accelerates early crop development across the Heartland.

“Looks good,” shared a central Kentucky corn grower. “[It looks] better than last year’s [crop] which we started planting in early April.”

“Corn looks good,” echoed another farmer in Kentucky.

Of 17 grower FFTF responses from the past week, average planting rates totaled out to 69% for the week ending April 24. The slower planting rate relative to USDA’s Crop Progress report out yesterday points to slower planting speeds in the Upper Midwest.

“We need two solid weeks of plant-able weather to finish corn and beans,” estimated a producer in north-central Wisconsin.

“It’s wet and no fieldwork is currently happening,” reported a producer just outside of Minneapolis. “We’ll be lucky to be planted by June 1.”

A central Minnesotan farmer was already weighing possible acreage shifts late last week. “Maybe prevent plant,” the grower mused.

Further planting progress will be dependent on farmers dodging rain this week. “Cold soils made for a late start,” fretted a western Ohio grower who continues to wait for an appropriate weather window to finish planting.

Spring wheat losses begin to mount

Spring wheat planting only advanced 10% last week, landing at 49% complete as of May 22. Planting progress in top states Minnesota and North Dakota continues to fall behind due to weather challenges. As prevent plant dates approach this, concerns about acreage loss continue.

Our first Canadian participant in the FFTF series (at least during my tenure) had thoughts about spring wheat sowing in northeast Saskatchewan last week that closely echoed those of many growers in North Dakota and Minnesota.

“We are getting more rain today,” the farmer shared. “So we are delayed planting for a few more days. Soon it will be late for spring wheat here.”

A few clear days are in store for the Northern Plains this week, but extended forecasts continue to show a soggy outlook through the rest of the month. “Forecast looks to keep us at a snail’s pace,” lamented one spring wheat producer on the Minnesota-Canada border.

Soybean sowing in good shape – for now

Soybeans are being sowed just as rapidly – if not more so – as corn across the Midwest over the past couple weeks. FFTF producers reported an average soybean planting completion rate of 53% over the past week, just a hair ahead of USDA’s Crop Progress report issued yesterday which estimated 50% of 2022 soybean acres had been planted as of Sunday.

One grower in Kentucky celebrated a finish to soybean planting and evaluated next steps of crop development. “We only need to replant 20 acres due to slugs this year. Last year we had to replant 600 acres due to slugs,” the grower quipped. “Soybeans already have two sets of leaves ahead of them [compared to] on the first of June last year.”

Further north in Indiana, a soybean producer worried about finishing planting and the health of early planted soybeans. “[We have] 2% emerged from early planted crop,” the farmer reported in the middle of last week. “Early planted [crops] are struggling [and] don’t look very promising.”

Emergence rates continue to trail planting progress, though not by much. USDA data for the past week pegs 21% of the crop emerged. FFTF responders estimated an average emergence rate of 29% through the week ending May 24. The five-year benchmark stands at 26%.

Soybean planting progress from USDA only stands 5% behind the five-year average – the same variance as last week’s report. Similar to corn, the Upper Midwest continues to hold back the nationwide average despite strong planting gains across the rest of the Heartland last week.

A central Minnesota soybean producer noted that “Hardly a wheel has turned in the area,” after evaluating prevent plant options for corn crops. Meanwhile, a grower outside Minneapolis shared expletives to describe the anxiety and unfavorable weather conditions plaguing the Upper Midwest this spring.

“Come on Mother Nature,” pleaded a Wisconsin grower. “Help us out!”

Winter wheat yields largely set

Soft red winter wheat varieties are largely in good condition across the Midwest. The sentiment helped pull the national condition rating for winter wheat up a percentage point with 28% of the nation’s crop in good to excellent condition as of Sunday.

A Kentucky winter wheat producer reported good conditions and 100% heading rates in an update. “[We] have all [winter wheat crops] sprayed and fungicide applied. [We are] hoping for good yields,” the farmer forecasted.

Weekend showers aided dry conditions in the parched Southern Plains, but it was likely too little too late. With much of the crop in the Southern Plains already headed, as evidenced in last week’s Wheat Tour through Kansas, yields are largely set and point to crop shortfalls for hard red winter wheat this year.

The Kansas wheat tour last week forecasted Kansas winter wheat yields at 39.7 bushels per acre this year, down 31% from 52.0 bushels per acre last year. USDA’s current forecast for Kansas winter wheat yields is slightly less optimistic at an even 39.0 bushels per acre as of early May 2022.

The hot weather has slowed heading paces in the Plains this year, with cool Midwestern spring conditions also delaying heading progress for soft red wheat varieties. As of Sunday, 63% of the nation’s winter wheat crop had reached the heading phase, just 2% behind the five-year average.

That means that winter wheat harvest will start to ramp up in the coming weeks. U.S. Wheat Associates acknowledged the official start to the 2022 harvest season late last week, noting that harvest activity for hard red winter wheat was 7% complete as of last Friday with test cutting underway in Oklahoma. Alabama has kicked off the first soft red winter wheat harvest of the season, where hot and dry weather will likely accelerate crop maturation rates.

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