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US crop progress data reveal stark divide in farms' fortunes

US growers are increasingly divided between those enjoying strong crop prospects, and those cursed by poor weather which has delayed sowings, in the north, or ravaged yield prospects through drought, in the south.

US growers overall achieved strong progress in spring plantings in the week to Sunday, getting 14% of their corn seeded to bring the total sown to 73%, just below the average of 76%, and in line with market expectations.

It is equivalent to about 68m acres of corn, leaving less than 24m acres still to go.

However, some 11m acres of this outstanding area are in four northern states Michigan, Minnestoa, North Dakota and Wisconsin.

Illinois vs neighbouring Wisconsin

Indeed, there is a deepening division between states which have fared well in sowings - including Illinois, a major corn producing state, where plantings are 84% finish, 11 points ahead of normal and the northern states.

States ahead in corn plantings - % completed and (change on average)

Missouri: 92%, (+15 points)

Illinois: 84%, (+11 points)

Indiana: 72%, (+10 points)

Colorado: 83%, (+8 points)

Tennessee: 93%, (+8 points)

Source: USDA, as of May 18

And even though better weather this week should allow many farmers in the likes of Michigan, and Wisconsin to play catch-up, the idea period for seedings has already passed and deadlines are approaching next week for prevent plant insurance, raising ideas of acres designated for corn being switched to other crops, or abandoned.

"With rains through the weekend in the northern Plains likely pushing many producers up against their insurance dates, expect to see some acreage shifted away from corn," Brian Henry at Benson Quinn Commodities said.

'Standing water and mud'

In Minnesota, while growers overcame what US Department of Agriculture scouts termed "continued cool and wet conditions" to plant 20% of their corn, they remain 28 points behind the pace.

States behind in corn plantings - % completed and (change on average)

North Dakota: 17%, (-37 points)

Michigan: 29%, (-36 points)

Minnesota: 53%, (-28 points)

Wisconsin: 36%, (-25 points)

Ohio: 50%, (-10 points)

Source: USDA, as of May 18

In Michigan, farmers are, with 29% of corn sown, less than half as far progressed as they usually are.

"Cold and rainy weather conditions deterred progress in row crop plantings," USDA scouts said, adding that "flooded fields halted fieldwork in most parts of the state".

In Wisconsin, "farmers were reportedly working around standing water and mud to spread manure and get seed planted as soon as possible", but still ended up having sown one-quarter less than typical by Sunday.

North Dakota growers were the furthest behind, having planted 17% of corn, compared with a typical 54%, even though "drier conditions allowed fieldwork to progress over much of the state".

Northern growers behind

The divide has become somewhat evident in soybean plantings too, in which North Dakota growers were only 5% finished, compared with a typical 25%, while Minnesota farmers had only 16% of their crop in the ground, behind the usual 45%.

The typical US farmers had 38% of soybeans in the ground, just five points behind the usual pace.

And in spring wheat, growers have only 49% of crop planted, compared with the average of 68%, although the sowings window has further to go than for corn.

Again, Minnesota growers are particularly behind, although North Dakota farmers, the top spring wheat farmers, have also progressed at less than half the usual pace.

'Disastered out'

In winter wheat, the divide is between growers of soft red winter wheat, cropped largely in the Midwest, which is broadly in decent condition, and those in the hard red winter wheat region in the south, which has suffered late frosts as well as drought.

Selected state winter wheat ratings and (change on week)

Idaho: 86%, (+2 points)

Indiana: 69%, (+1 point)

Nebraska: 40%, (-7 points)

Kansas: 12%, (-1 point)

Texas: 11%, (unchanged)

Oklahoma: 5%, (-1 point)

Data: proportion rated good or excellent by USDA, May 18

The proportion of wheat in Kansas, the top US winter wheat-growing state, rated "good" or "excellent" fell 1 point to 12% week on week.

"Concerns of possible freeze damage to corn and wheat were common across the eastern third of the state," USDA scouts said, adding that "dry patterns in western Kansas continued".

In Oklahoma, where the proportion of rated "good" or "excellent" dropped 1 point to just 5%, the Panhandle and north central districts have recorded the driest [March-to-May] season since 1956.

"Wheat fields in severe drought areas continued to be disastered out, baled for hay, or otherwise abandoned."

By contrast, 69% of Illinois wheat is in good or excellent condition, and 58% of the important Ohio soft red winter wheat crop.

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