FORT COLLINS, Colo. (Reuters) - U.S. farmers have gotten a solid start on their corn and soybean planting efforts this spring after making impressive progress last week, which is much welcomed after last year’s historic difficulties.
The window of opportunity for planting will not be completely wide open this week as rain will be a nuisance in Illinois and the eastern areas, but even an on-time planted crop is very much in the running for a record yield.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s statistics service, farmers had planted 27% of their corn crop by Sunday, up 20 points on the week and above the recent five-year average of 20%.
That is the fastest corn planting progress for the date since 34% for 2016’s crop, which is still the largest U.S. corn harvest on record.
Some 8% of U.S. soybeans were planted as of Sunday, the most for the date since 2017 and up 6 points on the week. The recent five-year average for the date is 4%.
USDA always compares the current year’s progress with the average of the previous five years on that same date, so that average now includes 2019, which ended up being the slowest corn planting campaign on record and among the slowest for soybeans due to excessive moisture and rain.
But on the national scale, 2019 is not yet skewing the data since the severe delays did not unfold until mid-May last year. The 2014-2018 average corn pace for April 26 is 21% and it is 4% for soybeans.
The largest difference between the 2014-2018 and 2015-2019 corn averages is about 6 percentage points, centered around both the May 12 and May 25 time frames.
For soybeans, the biggest difference in those averages peaks on June 1 at 8 points.
Some of the top producing corn and soybean states had an excellent week last week as planting conditions in many areas were among the most favorable in years.
Corn progress in Minnesota, the No. 4 corn state, reached 40% by Sunday, gaining an impressive 39 points on the week. That progress is tied with 2009 for the third-fastest on record for the date and ranks behind 2010 with 66% planted and 2016 with 49% planted.
The 39-point jump represents Minnesota’s best corn planting week since the one ended May 14, 2017, during which some 49% of the crop was planted.
Top corn grower Iowa planted 37% of its corn last week and reached 39% complete, ahead of the 20% average. In the past 15 years, only four had accomplished more planting by that date: 2006, 2009, 2010 and 2016.
Last week was Iowa’s best corn planting week since 54% of the crop was planted in the week ended May 3, 2015.
Top soybean state Illinois had planted 18% of its soybeans by Sunday, a record for the date, surpassing 2012’s 10%. Illinois’ 2018 soybean crop was one of the fastest ever planted and yields shattered records that year.
Corn planting is ahead of average in some other top states like Indiana and Nebraska, which are also off to a good start with soybeans.
It is still way too early to call anything delayed, but states like Ohio, North Dakota and Missouri have not partaken in the early planting fun. Corn progress lags in those states as wetter conditions have been prevalent.
Some farmers in North Dakota are still dealing with last year’s corn harvest, which was postponed by waterlogged fields. Conditions have improved but are still far from ideal, and this has delayed spring wheat planting.
U.S. farmers had planted just 14% of the spring wheat crop by Sunday, behind the recent average of 29%. That is faster than the past two years but behind the previous three years on the same date, the fastest of which was 55% in 2015. Top grower North Dakota had planted 5% by Sunday versus an average of 18%.
North Dakota should warm up this week and the rains may be lighter, but states in the east will have to dodge rain. Those include Illinois, which may not have as successful a week as last week.
Weather models as of Tuesday still hold a wetter bias for the Eastern Belt states through mid-May, so the progress there might be the slowest relative to normal. Cooler temperatures are also likely in that area for the next two weeks.
Western Belt growers will have to contend with a few showers in the coming days, but the outlook appears much better for planting there. Models have a drier bias for the western areas over the next two weeks, with warmer temperatures expected for at least another week.
The opinions expressed here are those of the author, a market analyst for Reuters.
Editing by Matthew Lewis