US weather good for corn, but yet to revive wheat
By - Published 03/06/2014

Wet weather has got US corn seedlings off to a strong start, but has yet to make much impact in rescuing the drought-hit winter wheat crop.

US corn was, as of Sunday, 76% in "good" or "excellent" condition, the US Department of Agriculture said in its first rating for the crop.

That was better than the rating of low-70s% expected by investors, and represented an unusually high condition reading, even for this time of year, exceeded only once, in 2007, on records going back to 1995.

Warm and wet

Ironically, readings were particularly strong in states where wet weather and cold had got sowings off to a slow start, with 91% of the crop in North Dakota, where farmers remain a little behind in plantings, viewed as being in good or excellent health.

USDA scouts said that North Dakota's crops enjoyed last week, besides "varying amounts of rainfall" late on, temperatures which were "at least 8-10 degrees Fahrenheit above normal over almost all of the state", a benefit at this time of year for boosting germination.

In Minnesota, another state where rain slow plantings, and where "warm weather rapidly advanced crop emergence during the week", the proportion of corn rated good or excellent came in at 83%.

And in Wisconsin, where 80% of corn was seen as good or excellent, heat boosted crop emergence, with temperatures 3-9 degrees above normal, with the state also receiving heavy rain at the beginning and end of the week, scouts said.

'Lack of significant rain'

Indeed, the national rating may have been higher were it not for low figures in Kansas, of 41%, and Texas, of 47%, as last week's rainfall on the drought-hit southern Plains achieved only patchy progress, so far, in improving crop hopes.

In winter wheat, the proportion of US crop rated as good or excellent remained at 30%, as combines began to roll in some southern hard red winter wheat areas, with the first soft red winter wheat, as grown in the Midwest and traded in Chicago, expected to be cut late this week.

The proportion of winter wheat in Kansas, the top US wheat growing state, rated good or excellent remained at 11%, scouts said, terming the precipitation "scattered rain showers".

In Nebraska, where winter wheat remained 40% good or excellent, while "precipitation of an inch or more was common across much of the state, central counties received lesser amounts.

"This continued lack of significant rain in central areas has resulted in much of the area being added to the severe to extreme drought categories."

'Too little, too late'

In Oklahoma, the proportion of winter wheat seen as good or excellent remained at 5% even though "all nine districts[of the state] received measurable rainfall last week", USDA scouts said.

While farmers in the state's panhandle and south west regions "reported good rains over the weekend", the moisture was "unfortunately too late to revive the winter wheat crops and too little for much improvement to subsoil moisture".

In fact, "winter wheat in Oklahoma continued to deteriorate", scouts said, although the proportion rated "poor" or "very poor" remained stable too, at 78%.

Planting pace

Nonetheless, on spring wheat, growers caught up on plantings, sowing 14% of crop in the week to reach 88% completion, in line with the average pace.

The data revealed a strong pace of soybean sowings too, with growers getting 78% of their crop in the ground, up 19 points in a week equivalent to some 15.5m acres to get eight points ahead of the average rate.

"The US farmer is able to get a lot accomplished when the weather co-operates," Kim Rugel at Benson Quinn Commodities said.

For corn, sowings were 95% complete, 1 point ahead of average, if in line with market expectations.

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