Market Matters Blog

Rain, Flooding May Cause Lost Acres, Prevented Planting in Northern Plains

Mary Kennedy
By  Mary Kennedy , DTN Basis Analyst
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Goose River at Northwood, North Dakota, spilling onto farm fields May 2. (Photo by Peter Ness, Ness Farms in Sharon, North Dakota)

Heading into May 9, 2022, farmers in the Northern Plains and northwest Minnesota are behind on planting due to heavy snow, rain in April and now spring flooding.

Western North Dakota and parts of southern Canada saw massive snowfalls in April, and while the moisture helped ease drought conditions, spring planting was delayed. In northwest Minnesota and northeast North Dakota, the Red River of the North spilled out of its banks, causing small streams to flood roads and farm fields.

DTN collected comments from all over the state and Canada during the week of May 1.

"North Dakota and Minnesota certainly seem vulnerable to getting less acres planted than originally intended, especially if the 1- to 1.5-inch rains happen as forecasted during the May 7-10 period," said Jim Peterson. marketing director, North Dakota Wheat Commission. "Northeast North Dakota and northwest Minnesota fields are quite saturated, and even without further rains, they are likely three weeks out from planting."

Peterson noted that producers in those areas have dealt with wet springs before, however, and once the water recedes, have proven they can make quick progress. "The challenge this year is the extent of road damage, which may limit ready access to some fields. Producers I talked to will still plant wheat if they can get rolling around May 20-25, and northern areas will go into early June."

Tim Dufault, Crookston, North Dakota, said, "If we don't get any more rain and see normal temperatures, we maybe could start planting by May 10-12. However, the 10-day forecast does have rain in it for our area. If we get to the middle of May and there's spring wheat left to plant, I think there's a good chance that will get switched to other crops like soybeans, sunflowers or corn."

"It's wet," said Peter Ness, Sharon, North Dakota. "Half the township roads are impassable with equipment. "If we don't get any more moisture, it'll be at least another week."

I asked Ness if his fields were flooded and he said, "Not so much right where I farm, but anything along any type of river is still flooded."

Darrin Schmidt, eastern North Dakota, said , "We haven't turned a wheel yet and with rain forecasted every weekend, I'm not exactly sure when we will be in. It's drying faster now but going to have to be faster than it has in order to get in the field. At this time, we haven't switched our plans yet but that may change weather permitting."

"For this area, most the early 2- to 4-inch rains ran off as we were still cold with frost in the ground. This last week's 1-2 inches of rain soaked in pretty good and helped a lot in bringing out the frost," said Cory Tryan, grain manager, Alton Grain Terminal, LLC. "Ground shaped up pretty quickly the last two days with good sun but still rather cool and near freezing at night. There are more rains forecasted but amounts will be less than 1 inch if the forecast holds. Expecting to be pretty busy around here the week of the 16th with a few fields maybe going by mid next week now. Should be a big push to get most in the ground before the end of May if weather cooperates. We are expecting a few fields of prevented planting, but most the ground will be planted."

A farmer in the northern Red River Valley told DTN that, while he needs to plant spring wheat still, he is more concerned about late planting oats before that. "But both are on our minds. It's too early to tell, as about one-third of our land is under floodwater as of May 6. Thinking of reducing or eliminating corn already."

Peter Bakkum, Fargo, North Dakota, said, "We are very wet. Standing water has mostly flowed off, but the soil is very saturated. We finally are having a few days of sunshine and some heat, so it is slowly starting to dry out. We have heavy soils in the valley that hold water very well. We could maybe start planting in 10 days to two weeks if we can keep any additional rain showers away. It can turn in a hurry with the right conditions."

"I have three quarters affected by the flood waters of the Red River. We had stuff that was under a week ago from back out from legal drains that flow into it, but the water is down now," said Travis Uggerud, Dayton, North Dakota. "Our frost is finally starting to soften to allow the standing water to soak in. Most of the snow in the tree lines should disappear by Friday. And without rain in the next seven to 10 days, we should be planting, I think. Putting in sugar beets, spring wheat and sunflowers."


Peterson said in Montana and South Dakota, as well as some parts of western North Dakota, "I think there is a good chance to see an increase in final hard red spring (HRS) wheat plantings, as compared to the early March survey. With improved moisture conditions, and some earlier crop insurance deadlines for pulse crops, I think HRS wheat is drawing some additional interest since early March. Producers in these areas are certainly more optimistic than one to two months ago, with the recent moisture.

"The drought is not over by any means, despite the April snow, but at least they can see a closer window to planting than fellow producers in eastern parts of the state and are hopeful they will see more frequent precipitation than a year ago. There has been planting taking place this week in parts of western North Dakota, which is a promising sign."

Kim Saueressig, McClusky, North Dakota, said, "We got some more moisture over the last weekend in April again, but not near as much as they were first forecasting. We actually have a few snow drifts around next to the tree rows but they're not that big. With that being said, and with the lower amount of rain over the weekend and the weather that we've had so far this week, we're actually going to get things going with barley, then onto durum and lentils.

"I know last time we talked we were going to get our small grains in and then start planting soybeans around the first of May. That's all changed now. Everything is all going in at the same time. Air seeder, planter, small grains, soybeans and corn will be going in all together. Amazing what a couple of weeks can do for moisture and timing."

Alan Klain, Turtle Lake, North Dakota, said, "We are seeding spring wheat in perfect conditions; 100% is going into soybean ground, which was open and took in the 24 inches of snow and the 1.40 inches of liquid from the storm a week later. What a change from the D3 and D4 drought conditions we were in last year. Fieldwork in my area has really picked up with the 70-degree temperatures. It's supposed to rain this weekend, which we won't turn down."

Blase Hendrickson, Parshall, North Dakota, said, "We are starting spring wheat today, May 5, and soybeans Friday. We have some water sitting in a few low spots but nothing to worry about. Ground conditions are beautiful and mellow currently. Lots of optimism in my Parshall area!"

Paul Anderson, Coleharbor, North Dakota, said the April snowstorm dropped 30 inches of snow and then the week following that storm, he had 2 inches of rain. "We were way dry last year, so soil profile had plenty of room for water. Sloughs are not even 30% full."

"I am planning to plant my corn on time and will start corn today (May 4). I will plant 60% of the farm to corn. Then I will plant peas, oats, and then 20% of the farm to wheat," said Anderson. "I am swinging a 2021 soybean field that was to be wheat, to be a cornfield. I know wheat is up 55 cents per bushel since Monday and that should move the needle to planting wheat, and 55 cents in a $4 wheat market is a big deal. At $11 wheat, 55 cents doesn't even get mentioned at the coffee shop. Neighbors are planting peas and corn on time, as the late planting penalty is not yet incurred. The top end wheat yield potential is gone and the wheat growers are like, 'meh, so what if the wheat gets in or not.'"

Matt Undlin, Lansford, North Dakota, said, "We received 40 inches of snow and 1.8 inches of rain in the last month and are finally sitting good on moisture. It sure beats a drought anyway. Spring wheat acres will be going into the ground later than the last 10 years, but at this point, I feel everyone will get the acres planted.

"I did some light fieldwork and picked a few rocks and my only complaint was ground is still very cold. Then again, today (May 4) was the first day of the year working in a tee shirt. I am starting May 6 with my spring wheat and hopefully will be done in three to four days and wait for ground temp to warm for corn and canola next. We do have rain in the forecast next week, but it's May and it should rain in May!"

Undlin said there is lots of barley and oats going in with Act of God contracts. "I think some corn acres will switch to wheat if it gets late. I am unsure if it will hurt total spring wheat acres with so many moving pieces, and really, with feed barley contracts at $8.00, that may have hurt the acres more than the late planting will hurt it.

Peterson added the biggest risk still would be a shift to much warmer weather and little growing season moisture, as happened in 2011. "There is little subsoil moisture across a lot of the western area, and later planted crops seem to struggle with tiller counts and optimum root development due to the compressed early part of plant establishment, and this is compounded if temps crank up rapidly in June and July.

"The risk for a significant loss in HRS wheat acres is certainly a real scenario yet, depending on rain and temps over the next 10 days. Overall market prices currently, and some fairly optimistic predictions that wheat prices will remain well supported into the 2022 crop year, will likely push producers to plant wheat later than they normally would under these conditions. At these market prices, prevent plant is also not as attractive to growers compared to much lower price years, especially if prices continue to strengthen."

Peterson noted, "Obviously our short growing season in this part of the country is a reality, and one simply does not know if you will have an unusually late fall frost, or avoid an excessively hot summer, which would be beneficial with a later planted crop. Those are the risks producers will have to weigh if their planting season gets compressed into late May and early June.

"In addition, it is much more difficult this year to quickly shift to other crop options due to the lack of seed availability in some crops, especially shorter maturity varieties, and just the overall unknown of supply chain issues in getting different products. At some point, it will just be too late for some crops though. Corn will likely be dropped out first, followed by wheat, and then the later season crops like soybeans or sunflowers."


Last crop season, Canada faced serious drought conditions much like their neighbors in North Dakota and northwest Minnesota. The April 26 Statistics Canada planting intentions report noted that the previous crop year was one of the driest on record in Western Canada.

"While soil moisture conditions are estimated to have returned to normal in some parts of western Canada, other areas such as southern Alberta and southwestern Saskatchewan remain drier than normal, potentially influencing seeding intentions. By comparison, soil moisture in eastern Canada is estimated to be normal," noted the report. "Canadian farmers expect to plant more wheat, corn for grain, lentils, soybeans and oats in 2022, while area seeded to canola, barley and dry peas is anticipated to decrease compared with the previous year." (…)

DTN Canadian Grains Analyst Cliff Jamieson said during the week of May 3, the first crop reports of the season were released by governments of Saskatchewan and Alberta, while Manitoba will release their first report on Tuesday, May 10. "This week's reports highlight the varying conditions faced as we move from the east to the west across the Prairies, as well as challenges faced from east to west within Saskatchewan and north to south within the province of Alberta."

The Saskatchewan Crop Report, as of May 2, estimates 1% of the province's crop seeded, down from 9% last year and the five-year average of 5%. "The two southern regions of the province, expected to be the most advanced, highlight the east-west divide in the province, with the Southeast Region estimated to be 1% complete, behind the average of 6%, while an estimated 8% of the Southwest Region is seeded, matching the five-year average pace. The eastern side of the province has faced the same elements as Manitoba, with a number of Colorado lows bringing precipitation to the area over the month of April," said Jamieson.

Jamieson noted that, as of May 2, very little progress had been made in the two central and two northern regions, with snow still present in tree and fence lines in the north. "An estimated 4% of the province's spring wheat, 3% of the durum, 4% of the barley, 4% of the dry peas and 2% of the lentils had been seeded. Across the province, an estimated 55% of cropland topsoil moisture is rated adequate, up from 41% this time last year and below the five-year average of 63.6%. An estimate 40% of the province is rated short-to-very short topsoil moisture, compared to the five-year average of 28%, with the Southwest and West-Central regions the driest of the six regions of the province."

The Alberta Crop Report, as of May 3, estimates 12.2% of the province's crop had been seeded, down from 17.4% this time last year but ahead of the five-year average of 9.6%. Progress has been most noticeable across the driest Southern Region of the province, where 36.5% of all crops have been seeded, down from 45.5% last year but ahead of the five-year average of 27.7%. An estimated 5.9% of the Central Region has been planted, slightly ahead of average, while the three northern regions have planted less than 1% of crops, only slightly behind the average pace.

Jamieson said "It is estimated that Alberta's cropland surface soil moisture is rated 49% good to excellent, which is 20 percentage points below the five-year average. This data changes drastically as we move from south to north in the province, with the good-to-excellent surface soil moisture rating at 40.7% in the Southern Region, while reported at 84.7% in the furthest north Peace Region.

"The southern area of the province has received less than 40% of normal precipitation in the April 1 to May 6 period, with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada pointing to this region being the driest on the prairies, with total soil moisture as of April 30 less than 40% of average."

Overall, an estimated 12.4% of Alberta's spring wheat has been planted along with 52.9% of the durum, along with 13% of the barley and 21.8% of the peas.

"Producers on the eastern side of the Prairies continue to pray for an end to the rains, while producers in the southwestern areas of the Prairies would be happy to stop their drills and air seeders due to rain," said Jamieson.

Jamieson pointed out that "On May 6, Statistics Canada estimated Canada's wheat stocks (excluding durum) at 8.636 million metric tons (mmt) as of March 31, the tightest stocks seen in 19 years. Durum stocks at 1.467 mmt are the tightest since 1986 and canola stocks at 3.940mmt are the tightest seen since 2005.

"Challenges faced in spring planting comes at a time when Canada's grain stocks are extremely tight due to low carry-in stocks estimated for 2021-22 and drought-reduced production, with combined stocks of Canada's principal field crops potentially on the way to a record low this crop year," said Jamieson.

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