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US spring wheat harvest now slowest in at least 25 years

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The US spring wheat harvest faces more of the wintry weather which official data showed has now slowed it to its most tardy in at least 25 years, with the soybean harvest too at its most delayed since 1996.

 

US farmers in the week to Sunday harvested just a further 3% of their spring wheat, official data showed, taking overall progress to 90% - and relegating it to the slowest on US Department of Agriculture data going back to 1995.

 

Indeed, the data imply that growers have 10% of their crop yet to reap at a time when they have often finished harvesting.

 

That is equivalent to more than 1.2m acres in area terms, and nearly 60m bushels (1.6m tonnes) in production terms, comparison with revised official estimates for domestic wheat crops shows.

 

‘Historic snowstorm’

The slow pace of harvesting reflects wet and, now snowy, weather which has prevented fieldwork.

 

USDA officials in Montana - the second-ranked spring wheat growing state, where 16% of the crop remains in the field – flagged that “wet weather and a historic snowstorm were observed across the state last week”.

 

One scout “stated a historic snowstorm dropped almost two feet of snow over the weekend, and the impact on crops is still being assessed”.

 

In North Dakota, the top growing state, harvesting is also historically slow, with 11% of crop still in the field.

 

‘Fieldwork will remain very slow’

The setback is reflected north in Canada too, where Saskatchewan reported that its growers had harvested only 31% of their spring wheat as of the beginning of last week, down from 53% progress at the same time of last year.

 

Saskatchewan is Canada’s top grain growing state, where growers planted 3.52m hectares (8.70m acres) of spring wheat this year, plus a further 1.66m hectares of durum.

 

However, further poor weather is expected, with Maxar forecasting further snow this week for Canada’s Prairies, particularly in southern areas, where “ fieldwork will remain very slow”.

 

For the northern US spring wheat belt, the weather service said that “snow should continue across Montana and western North Dakota through Wednesday, with rain in eastern North Dakota, South Dakota, and Minnesota”.

 

The snow in “will continue to stall remaining harvesting”, and while drier weather is expected in Minnesota, this is one state where growers, having got 97% of their crop in the barn, have less crop still to reap.

 

Minneapolis spring wheat futures, which proved one of the best performers among agricultural commodities last month thanks to North America’s harvest setbacks, added 0.4% to $5.46 ½ a bushel in early trading on Tuesday.

 

Slow on soybeans

The overnight USDA data also gave the first reading of the season for the US soybean harvest, showing it at 7% complete.

 

That was the lowest figure for the time of year since 1996, and reflects the setback to crop development from a delayed spring sowings season, followed by a temperate summer.

 

In Illinois, the top soybean-growing state, only 1% of crop had been harvested, compared with an average of 21% by now, thanks to slow crop development and to rains which, at 2.2 inches, were 50% above normal.

 

In second-ranked Iowa, growers had harvested 3% of their soybeans, compared with a typical 12%, and a shortfall estimated by USDA scouts at the equivalent of eight days in fieldwork terms.

 

‘Too dry’

The US corn harvest, at 11% complete, remains behind the typical pace too, and after progress of just 4 points week on week is now the slowest in a decade.

 

However, for cotton, harvest completion of 16% as of Sunday is ahead of the average pace, by 2 points, helped by drier and warmer weather in southern US growing areas.

 

In Georgia, the second-ranked growing state, harvest was 18% complete, 8 points ahead of normal, although one scout reported that locally “nearly all peanut and cotton harvesting stopped due to the dry conditions

 

“It was too dry to dig peanuts, and too dry to properly defoliate cotton.”

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