The corn market is worried about tight supplies of old crop corn, and it received more reason to be concerned when USDA released its weekly Iowa Crops and Weather Report on Monday April 18. The statewide survey shows only 2% of Iowa's 2011 corn acreage has been planted through last weekend, compared with 16% at this time a year ago.
Farmers have been held out of fields by rain and soil temperatures still too cool for planting. Iowa trails the national average, which showed 7% of the corn in the ground through Sunday April 17. Illinois, which ranks second behind Iowa among corn producing states, has 9% of its corn planted. Missouri has 26% planted.
Iowa farmers have been held back by the wettest week since November, says Harry Hillaker, state climatologist for the Iowa Department of Agriculture. And temperatures as much as 10 degrees F below normal through last weekend reversed the warming of the spring soil that Iowa enjoyed the previous week.
Soil temperatures in Iowa still averaging below 50-degrees F
Rain on Tuesday April 19 moved through the state, and a winter weather advisory was issued for much of northern Iowa with snow reported in several locations from Spencer to Decorah. The wet weather is a double-edged sword, notes Hillaker. The good news is we're sitting on a full-tank of subsoil moisture. The bad news is farmers are unable to get into the fields.
"We like to get as much of our crop planted in April so corn can be ready to harvest by late September, and less vulnerable to fall frosts," says Sean Harmon who farms in central Iowa. "I like to be in the field with the planter around April 12 but that isn't happening this year."
A one billion bushel drop in U.S. corn stocks has put more pressure on farmers in Iowa and across the Corn Belt to produce a bumper crop in 2011. Any significant weather problems with the crop this spring and summer could send corn prices soaring even higher, which could lead to higher meat prices and squeeze ethanol plants and livestock producers.
Farmers aren't panicking, modern technology can speed planting
The cold weather has caused soil temperatures to cool, not very conducive to getting the 2011 corn crop into the ground. Soil temperatures in the state still averaged below the 50-degree threshold needed for corn plant germination as of April 19. ISU Extension agronomists have discouraged farmers from planting too early because of chilly soil conditions.
The weather isn't likely to improve too soon to allow planters to get back into the field. The National Weather Service forecasts rain and some snow every day in most of Iowa through Friday April 22. Wet conditions through the end of this week, combined with the need for four or five days of drying, would keep farmers out of the fields until the middle of next week.
"Unfortunately, it looks like precipitation and cool weather again this week will limit the amount of planting that gets done until next week," says Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey. Farmers aren't panicking, however. Harmon, the central Iowa farmer, says modern technology can speed planting. "With global positioning systems, we can plant at night now," says Harmon. "Last year my brother and I planted 978 acres running from 10 p.m. to 10 a.m."
Markets watching planting progress more closely this spring
Meanwhile the markets will keep watching corn planting progress more closely than usual because domestic corn stocks are at a 15-year low, with export and ethanol demand still going strong. "Tight grain stocks are demanding that everything go well this year with crop production," observes Arlan Suderman, market analyst for Wallaces Farmer.
The weekly Iowa Crops and Weather Report is issued each Monday afternoon, released by the Iowa office of USDA's National Agricultural Statistical Service. The report is released weekly April through October. The weekly report is on the Iowa Department of Agriculture website www.IowaAgriculture.gov and also on USDA's site www.nass.usda.gov/ia. Here's a summary of this week's report:
WINTER LINGERS: Winter just doesn't want to let go as areas of northern Iowa received snow again over the past weekend and again on April 19. Cool, wet weather has slowed fieldwork for much of Iowa. Time was spent cleaning up debris left behind by tornadoes which struck the state April 9. Farmers are anxious for warm and dry weather so planting can begin in earnest.
There were 3.4 days suitable for fieldwork during the past week in Iowa. Topsoil moisture levels rated zero percent very short, 2% short, 79% adequate and 19% surplus. Subsoil moisture rated zero percent very short, 3% short, 82% adequate and 15% surplus.
Just 2% of Iowa's 2011 corn acreage has been planted as of April 17 compared with 16% at this time last year and the 5-year average of 6%. Some corn was planted early in the week but as cooler weather arrived along with precipitation, most corn planting ceased. Oat acreage planted was 64% complete, behind last year's 78% but ahead of the five-year average of 47%. Oat acreage emerged was 11%, trailing last year's 25% but slightly ahead of normal.
Pasture and range condition is now rated 3% very poor, 13% poor, 36% fair, 41% good and 7% excellent. Cool temperatures and cloudy skies have slowed pasture growth. Also, recent cold, wet weather has not been beneficial for newborn calves. Some cases of scours have been reported.