Rain, cold slows US corn sowings more than thought

The US appears set for more of the cold and wet weather which hampered US crops more than investors had thought, leaving farmers behind in corn plantings by an area bigger than Belgium, with conditions hurting winter wheat further too.

US growers had sown 19% of corn as of Sunday, less than the 21% that investors had expected, US Department of Agriculture data showed.

It was also well behind the average of 28% by now, a lag equivalent in area terms to more than 8m acres, if better than the 5% achieved a year ago, during a particularly slow planting season.

The lag was attributed largelys to excessive rains and chilly temperatures in many major producing states, including Iowa, the top grower, where "wet conditions continued to slow down fieldwork", USDA scouts said.

"Cool soil temperatures remain a concern for farmers planting in the northern part of the state," they added.  

Iowa farmers had planted 15% of their crop, compared with one-third typically by now.

'Heavy rainfall'

And there are expectations of further poor weather too come, with Gail Martell at Martell Crop Projections Corn forecasting that "planting will stall from wet field conditions and a colder forecast this week.

Already "heavy rainfall" has spread into major Corn Belt producing states such as Illinois and Indiana.

And rains are expected "to linger" in the Midwest, Ms Martell said.

The conditions are expected to offer support to corn prices, with Ben Bradbury at Benson Quinn Commodities saying that "with planting pace coming in below expectations and the less than ideal weather forecast this week, I'd expect there will be support underneath the market".

'Severe weather'

Richard Feltes, at RJ O'Brien, termed the data "mildly supportive" for prices, a description applied too to wheat futures, after the USDA revealed a further drop, by 1 point to 34%, in the proportion of US winter wheat seedlings rated "good" or "excellent".

Benson Quinn Commodities said that the data would "offer support" to futures in Kansas City-traded hard red winter wheat, the type grown in the southern Plains, which was at the centre of the deterioration.

The crop in Kansas, the top US wheat producing state, was rated 21% good or excellent, down 3 points week on week, undermined by inadequate rainfall, with "only limited amounts of moisture recorded in western drought counties", USDA scouts said.

In Oklahoma, where the proportion of winter wheat dropped 2 points to a meagre 9%, scouts noted that "severe weather moved through the state last weekend", bringing "the first deadly tornado of the year", but minimal rain to refresh drought-hit crops.

Indeed, "any moisture received was carried away by the high winds," the USDA said.

"Drought conditions continued to worsen, especially in the north western portion of the state."

'Continued to limit fieldwork'

For corn, sowings in Minnesota, one of the top five producing states, were particularly behind, at 4% complete compared with an average of 30%, slowed by "wet conditions" which "continued to limit fieldwork", limiting it to only 1.7 days last week, USDA scouts said.

In Indiana, another of the big five, sowings were 8% finished, below an average of 26% by now.

Plantings of many other crops, including cotton were behind too, and the USDA highlighted particularly volatile weather in Texas, the top producing state, where sowings were 15% done, 3 points below average.

'Freezing temperatures'

"Freezing temperatures and hail affected much of the state last week, reaching from the Panhandle all the way to South Texas.

"Later in the week, hot temperatures and high winds increased the potential of wildfires."

Such conditions have already written off some crop, with the USDA noting that "some cotton replanting was active in areas of the Upper Coast that received significant frost and hail damage".

In spring wheat, US sowings were, at 30% finished, 12 points behind the average, also hurt by the poor conditions in Minnesota.

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