Fundamentally Speaking

Planting Spring Wheat Crop is Slow Go

Joel Karlin
By  Joel Karlin , DTN Contributing Analyst

The USDA continues to report slow seedings of the spring wheat crop in the Northern Plains and Upper Midwest, and forecasts this week for widespread rains through the Dakotas and Minnesota along with reports of flooding in Montana, do not offer much hope for getting this crop in the ground at an accelerated rate.

The graphic above shows the percent of U.S. spring wheat (mostly hard red spring) planted as of May 1 versus the change in planted area from the end of March Prospective Plantings report to the final acreage numbers given in the annual Crop Production report in 1000s.

With the USDA reporting that 30% of the spring wheat was planted as of Sunday versus a mere 10% the week prior, this extrapolates out to just 16% of the nation's spring wheat crop seeded as of May 1. This ranks as one of the lowest planted rates as of May 1 going back to 1981. But a less than optimal forecast certainly raises the possibility that some intended spring wheat acreage will not get seeded to that crop with the ground either characterized as prevented plantings for insurance purposes or perhaps planted to another crop such as soybeans, field peas or oats.

Although, the work we have done in the past indicates a loose relation between planting dates and the percent that final yields deviate from a trend, there is a relation between the changes in planted acreage from the March intentions to the final production report. In 2013, only 17% was in the ground as of May 1 and final acreage was 1.105 million less than the March intentions, while in 2011, with a mere 10% in the ground plantings declined by 2.033 million, one of the biggest drops ever. In 1997 only 10% of the nation's spring wheat crop was in the ground by May 1, yet final acreage was actually 1.342 million greater than the intentions. In the year prior, only 15% was in the ground, which was an increase of a whopping 2.543 million though super strong wheat prices in the 1996-97 period. This is what kept farmers sticking with their original intentions.

We do not think that will be the case this year as current values for September 2018 Minneapolis wheat futures are a ho-hum $6.21, more than $2.00 per bushel from where spring wheat prices were a year ago. November 2018 soybean futures are well over $10.25, so farmers certainly have some economic incentive to make a switch, especially with outstanding soybean yields being reported in that area over the past few years.

Joel Karlin can be reached at



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