May 3, 2012
Rains will slow US corn plantings
The coming of rains means US farmers may struggle to repeat last week's feat of planting an area the size of South Korea with corn, to maintain sowings at their second highest pace on record.
US growers planted one-quarter of their corn crop in the week to Sunday (Apr 29), far more than the 16% figure analysts had expected, USDA data showed.
Given that farmers have intended to sow 95.9 million acres, this figure equates to some 24 million acres (9.7 million hectares), an area bigger than Hungary or Portugal, or the US state of Indiana.
And it took to 53% the level of completed corn sowings, a pace second only to 2010, when growers at 68% of the crop in the ground by the end of April.
Typically, farmers have 27% of their corn sown by then.
The pace was led by western Corn Belt areas, including Iowa, the top US corn-growing state, where farmers sowed 41% of their crop in the week.
"Corn planting progressed rapidly in most areas as farmers took full advantage of dry fields early in the week", USDA officials said.
In neighbouring Minnesota, farmers planted 37% of their crop, and in Nebraska 30%.
"Good planting progress was made until late in the week, when widespread precipitation stopped fieldwork," the USDA said.
Indeed, the national corn plantings figure might have been higher were it not for the rains which lashed much of the US over the weekend, landing more than eight inches of rain onto parts of Oklahoma.
And the rainfall looks set to stick around for the next two weeks, to judge by the GFS weather model.
This shows "a considerable amount of rain over the next five days with most of its centred over the Midwest and into Minnesota and Wisconsin", weather service WxRisk.com said.
"It is in the six-to-10 day that the models get even wetter. The cold front finally settles across the central Plains and the lower Midwest. This results in significant rains over the western Dakotas and Nebraska into Iowa on May 6-7, moving into the Midwest May 8-9."
A report by Paragon Economics and Steiner Consulting said the forecast "says the pace [of plantings] may slow somewhat this week".
The crop progress report also showed growers staying ahead in sowings of other crops, including cotton, where plantings were 26% completed compared with an average of 19%, and soy, of which 12% were in the ground, compared with a typical 5% by now.
Spring wheat plantings hit 74%, up from an average of 32%, and just 9% a year before, when farmers were kept from fields by flooding as heavy winter snowfalls melted.
Winter wheat was rated 64% in "good" or "excellent" condition, a 1 point rise on the week, and a marked improvement on the 34% a year before, when many growing areas, including the major producing state of Kansas, were affected by drought.