Market Matters Blog

Planting Window for 100% of Intended Spring Wheat Acres Close to Shutting

Mary Kennedy
By  Mary Kennedy , DTN Basis Analyst
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In the Monday, May 16, USDA weekly Crop Progress report, North Dakota's National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) said for the week ended May 15, spring wheat was 17% planted, well behind 81% last year and 60% average. Only 2% of the crop was emerged, well behind 34% last year, and behind the 20% average. Durum wheat was 9% planted, well behind 54% last year and the 45% average. In fact, corn, canola, sugarbeets, oats, barley and edible peas planting were all well behind average.

In Minnesota, planting progress for spring wheat was at 5% versus the five-year average of 75% and last year's 99% for the same timeframe. Corn planting was 35% percent complete, compared to 94% last year and the five-year average of 72%. Barley, oats and sugarbeet planting were well behind average as well.

While insurance last-plant dates for spring wheat are May 31 in the southern half and June 5 in the northern half of those states, last-plant date for corn in North Dakota and northwest Minnesota is May 25. Many farmers have already said they will get their wheat in first and may have to forgo some -- if not all -- their intended corn acres where fields in those two states are still too wet to get in either due to standing water or muddy conditions.

Rain has not taken a break in much of those two states and that has kept the Red River of the North at Grand Forks in flood stage for all of May so far and, as of May 23, the water level was sitting at 35.75 feet. According to the National Weather Service prediction, it will likely stay above minor flood stage of 28 feet heading into June.

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The domino effect of the continued rains, besides the Red River flooding, is small streams flooding and causing overland flooding, keeping many fields under water or dotted with puddles and pretty much impassible by planters due to the soft ground.

I posted a question May 19 on Twitter, asking farmers where planting conditions are poor how many acres of spring wheat and corn will go unplanted if conditions don't improve. The following are answers sent to me on that day, unless otherwise noted.

In eastern North Dakota, a farmer said, "As it's raining again, I don't know exactly, but we pushed to get in the field and went around water and there are few farmers attempting that. Finding a worked field is a tough go right now in our area."

Near the Casselton, North Dakota, area: "Looks like barley, sugarbeets, corn and wheat going in. Rain just started about a half-hour ago with 1/4 inch expected. Then hoping for drying in a week to 10 days. There are fewer wheat acres in the southern Red River Valley."

In the Devil's Lake area: "Rained yesterday and chance again today. Very wet again. I've got .0073 of my contracted acres seeded. Will lose corn acres and some wheat. Going to lose a little bit of everything."

From Northwest Iowa, a farmer answered, "Corn specifically (not planted). I think we are going to see planting continue into June. Federal crop price is lower (February average) and they still maintain some level of insurance after federal date. Plus, have you seen corn prices? Major motivator."

A farmer is southwest Grand Forks County said, "We have 0% planted right now. Hoping to get about 60% of our corn in next week. Wheat and barley will be started next week, and will go well into June, hoping to get 90% or better. Will not add any soy acres in June, unplanted corn acres will go to wheat or remain unplanted."

Another farmer in northeast North Dakota and one near Jamestown said they have zero acres planted as of May 22 and there is more rain coming early in the week.

In Loraine, North Dakota, a farmer said, "Airplane has been busy spreading canola if that helps give you an idea of wetness here north-central North Dakota."

A western North Dakota farmer said, "Our corn is done and no reason to think we won't get our wheat all in either here." Another farmer north of Bismarck said their area will also get done.

A farmer from Lansford, North Dakota, sent me a message on May 17 saying, "I have 10 acres done. North-central North Dakota is bad. Some crop is going in down by Jamestown, but no fieldwork done from Carrington to Kenmare. I just can't believe how wet we got from being so dry. Unbelievable really."

An East Grand Forks, Minnesota, a farmer answered, "All, if not more, will go in. Maybe see some reduction but I believe also, most will go in. Maybe 10%-15% reduction but markets are saying to plant it versus prevent plant, in my opinion. Still 22 days until June 10. Probably see some additional sunflower acres."

A Northwestern Minnesota farmer said, "I'd say we lose 25% of the intended corn here, 10% of the wheat. Nobody's afraid to plant soybeans here on the fifth of June. With prices where they are, there won't be much prevent plant, just acres switched."

According to the USDA Risk Management Agency: "A farmer has the decision to either plant the planned crop or not plant the crop and take a prevent plant payment, or take a partial prevent plant payment and plant a crop with restrictions."

Nearly all the farmers in the position of uncertainty as to when the rain will cease and how long it will then take to dry out have all said the same thing -- grain prices are too high right now to consider prevented planting and they will wait until they have to declare it according to the timeline set to do so.

A farmer from Berthold, North Dakota, said on Twitter that it was still too wet to plant there. On May 21, a farmer from the area north of Berthold said, "Up near across the northern tier of the state here, we are basically at 0% planted. A little canola has gone in either with the airplane or floater. The southern area (near lake Sakakawea) is 35% give or take. Rain and snow the last two days; it's 32 degrees this morning."

A farmer in northwest Minnesota said on May 22 he has not planted one seed. "There is a handful of fields in the neighborhood that are planted. They were on last year's beet fields, which tend to be drier than other fields. We had .4 inches of rain Thursday and light sprinkles Saturday. Forecast is favorable. I'm hoping to be seeding wheat by midweek. That will be the latest start I can remember. I'm thinking wheat yields will be only 85%-90% of normal with good weather going forward. If we have a hot summer, yields could be much lower."

He added, "As far as people switching crops, this week will tell us a lot."

Mary Kennedy can be reached at

Follow her on Twitter @MaryCKenn


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