Weather woes delay corn sowings, hurt wheat again

US growers are already behind on their corn plantings by an area the size of Jamaica thanks to a cocktail of adverse weather, which continued winter wheat ratings too, although with some ideas of recovery in progress.

US farmers had sown 3% of their corn as of Sunday, a marginal improvement on the rate a year ago, one of the slowest spring planting seasons on record, but still well behind the average of 6% by the this time of year.

With the US Department of Agriculture foreseeing domestic growers planting 91.7m acres of corn, that represents a delay of about 2.8m acres in area terms.

The slow start reflects a prolonged winter in the US, which has left soil temperatures and lowered germination prospects for grain for now, encouraging many farmers to hold off, while some states have suffered significant precipitation, including late snow in some areas.

'Window is closing'

States particularly behind included Missouri, where farmers had sown 9% of corn, seven points behind the average pace, and Tennessee, where 7% was in planted, behind the average of 25% by now.

"Pastures, cattle, and wheat continue to benefit from the rainy weather, but those same rains again hampered corn planting progress," said USDA crop scouts in Nashville, Tennessee.

"With ongoing delays due to rain, there is growing concern that the window to plant the crop is closing."

In Illinois, the second-ranked US corn producing state, where "severe storms and heavy rainfall continued throughout the state last week", just 1% of sowings were complete, compared with 10% typically by now.

'Dire need of precipitation'

The setbacks in corn posed by excess rain contrasts with the dryness which has hurt condition of US winter wheat, at least in southern states, dragging the national rating down 1 point last week to 34% rated good or excellent.

That is two points lower than the figure a year ago, itself a lowly total, affected by the drought in 2012 which got autumn sown crops off to a poor start.

The decline included a further crop in the health of seedlings in the major southern hard red winter wheat state of Oklahoma, where the proportion rated "good" or "excellent" dropped 1 point to 14%.

"The entire state, assuredly the western portion, is in dire need of precipitation to see any progress in winter crops," USDA scouts said.

Recovery to come?

However, in Kansas, the top US wheat producing state, while the proportion seen good or excellent fell 3 points to 26%, some improvement may be in train.

Last week, "much-needed rain, along with areas of snow, was welcome and should improve wheat and pasture conditions".

However, even if some crops are enjoying improved moisture levels, there are fresh concerns over cold weather expected in the southern Plains this week.

"A cold weather forecast for the week raises concerns about winter wheat in the southern Plains, and the beginning of corn planting in the central Midwest," Kim Rugel at Benson Quinn Commodities said.

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