US winter wheat sowings have slowed to one of the weakest
paces on record, thanks to rains which have eased dryness worries in the key
central Plains growing area – although jitters remain for the Midwest.
US farmers had as of Sunday seeded 36% of their winter wheat,
being planted ahead of the 2018 harvest, US Department of Agriculture data
While up 12 points week on week, the figure was well below
the average of 43% for the time of year, and indeed was behind the 37-38% result
that investors had expected.
It also represents the second lowest winter wheat planting
progress for the time of year on data going back to 1996, beating only the pace
The slow progress reflected in particular a weak pace in central
Plains hard red winter wheat-growing areas, such as Oklahoma, where seeding
were 13 points behind the typical pace.
Winter wheat sowings, selected US states, October 1, change on week and (difference from average)
Idaho: 65%, +27 points, (+16 points)
Colorado: 57%, +18 points, (-12 points)
Montana: 53%, +30 points, (-17 points)
Oklahoma: 30%, +14 points, (-13 points)
Kansas: 21%, +7 points, (-18 points)
Ohio: 18%, +15 points, (+1 point)
Illinois: 9%, +9 points, (-1 point)
In neighbouring Kansas, seedings, at 21% complete, were
lagging the average by 18 points.
However, the increasing slowdown behind average levels was
attributed to rains last week which, while slowing fieldwork, provided
much-needed moisture for germination.
In Kansas, the proportion of top soil rated "short" or "very
short" of moisture by the USDA dropped by 21 points week on week to 37%.
In Oklahoma, it tumbled by 29 points to 18%, while falling
by 12 points to 14% in Colorado, where USDA scouts noted that "continued cool
and wet conditions again last week delayed fieldwork… but provided welcome
moisture in areas".
At Chicago broker Futures International, Terry Reilly said: "Good
rain across the [area's] winter wheat areas last week left producers out their
fields, but the rain is welcome."
'Temperatures too low
However, further north in Montana, the third-ranked winter
wheat growing state after Kansas and Oklahoma, where plantings were 17% behind
the usual pace, a lack of moisture remained an issue for farmers – as did cold
"Soil moisture conditions were recorded with 57% of topsoil
rated very short to short, compared to 30% the previous year," the USDA said,
adding that its scouts had "noted that low temperatures had some growers
turning off their irrigation systems.
Slowest years for US winter wheat sowings progress, as of October 1
1: 2000, 34%
2: 2017, 36%
3=: 1997, 2011, 39%
5=: 1998, 2015, 2016, 41%
Sources: USDA, Agrimoney.com. Data since 1996
"Hard frosts were also reported, and reporters noted that
temperatures in some areas were too low for planting of winter wheat, with poor
Sowing into dry
Meanwhile, in the Midwest - the production centre for soft
red winter wheat, as traded in Chicago - dryness was also flagged as an issue
in key growing state Ohio, where USDA scouts reported "scarce to non-existent
rains and soaring temperatures" last week.
Topsoil in 56% of the state was rated as being short or very
short of moisture, the USDA said, adding that "wheat planting continued with many
growers opting to 'dust in' the crop".
Indeed, Ohio winter wheat sowings, at 18%, were 1 point
ahead of the average pace.
In Illinois, where "dry conditions were prevalent across the
state last week", sowings were also, at 9% complete, in line with the average
pace - despite 84% of topsoil being short or very short of moisture.
The data flagged ideas of an east-west split in winter wheat
fortunes, with broker Benson Quinn Commodities saying that while "planting
conditions have improved in the southern Plains, dry conditions in the eastern
Midwest have raised concerns about germination of the soft red winter wheat
However, rains are expected for both soft red and hard red
winter wheat growing areas.
MDA said that "rains will be widespread across the hard red
winter wheat belt in the Plains this week, which will slow wheat planting, but
provide plentiful soil moisture for wheat germination".
In the Midwest "rains will continue to favour" north western
areas on Tuesday, but "should spread into the central Midwest on Wednesday and
will favour south central and western areas on Thursday and Friday".