Cash Market Moves

It's Finally Time for Spring Wheat Planting

Mary Kennedy
By  Mary Kennedy , DTN Basis Analyst
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Snow is still present in the windrows at Ness Farms as of May 4, 2022. (Photo by Peter Ness)

April snow, on top of heavy winter snow, delayed spring wheat, durum wheat and other small-grain planting, especially in northwest Minnesota, eastern North Dakota and parts of South Dakota, but there has finally been some action in some of those areas.

"After the 30-plus inches of snow on March 31, spring wheat planting in central South Dakota started a couple of weeks ago in the middle of April. It was touch and go at first but seems to be everyone is going as of today, May 3," said Tim Luken, manager of Oahe Grain, Onida, South Dakota. "I would think by the end of this week most producers will be done. Some guys were done last week. Rain showers did shut us down a week ago for a day, but from that point forward, it's been clear sailing. Producers have been putting in long hours to get this crop in.

"Moisture at this time is in good shape, and days have been very cool for this time of year. I have not seen any spring wheat coming up yet from the Gettysburg area all the way to the Pierre area. As far as acres being planted, most sunflower stalks and a few soybean fields have been seeded into spring wheat. I am sure the corn planters won't be far behind."

Tregg Cronin, Gettyburg, South Dakota, said they started planting oats on April 18 and started spring wheat on April 23. "With any luck, we will wrap up tonight, May 3. Most of the spring wheat in the central part of the state will be done by the weekend. It's been a really good run over the last seven to 10 days. Some corn and beans are starting to go in but will get ramped up next week."

"We started today. Field conditions are good, and things have really dried out nicely in the last week, almost to the point where I'm thinking we will be glad we had all that snow this winter," said Ryan Wagner, Roslyn, South Dakota, as of May 3.

Checking in with farmers in northwest Minnesota, Tim Dufault, Crookston, Minnesota, told DTN on May 3 that he hoped to be going by the end of the week. "A couple guys did some scratching today, seeding wheat tomorrow. Still some snowbanks in tree rows and fence lines."

Matthew Krueger, East Grand Forks, Minnesota, said on May 5 that he was starting to seed. "We should get all of our intended acres in, pending not a ton of rain delays, but we are going earlier this year than last. We're at an average for a start actually! I had guessed May 8 to be honest." Krueger was referring to the delayed planting season last spring, as conditions were much worse through mid-May due to overland flooding causing swamped fields. In fact, many in his area and eastern North Dakota had no wheat planted as of May 22, 2022.

Vance Johnson, Breckenridge, Minnesota, said that he had just started spring wheat on May 3 and was planting sugarbeets when he was done.

Probably the biggest concern this spring planting season has been in North Dakota where Bismarck landed in second place for most snow in a winter at 101.2 inches, while Grand Forks measured over 70 inches and Fargo was over 60 inches. Some of that snowfall came throughout the state as late as mid-April.

Stu Letcher, North Dakota Grain Dealers Association executive vice president, said that as of May 3, "They are moving in the southwest part of the state, and things have cranked up in the area south of Jamestown, but so far, all I've heard is that they are applying fertilizer. That could have changed in the last day or so. I haven't talked to anyone up in the Minot area, so I don't know what is happening up there. The Valley is still wet, so nothing around here that I know of yet."

Eric Moberg, Mohall, North Dakota, said, "I think I'm roughly at least a week out ... hoping by the 15th. I think the frost just went out here ... hoping the water drops now." On May 2, Moberg posted a video on Twitter of fields dotted with puddles everywhere and as far as the eye could see.

Darrin Schmidt, eastern North Dakota, said that as of May 3, some people had started, but it was very slow and few and far between. "More people will be going by Friday is my guess, and then it is supposed to rain Sunday and not stop all week, so I doubt we'll have anything ready to go before the rain. I'm guessing we'll start next weekend or the following week.

"I drove to Carson, North Dakota, on May 3 and didn't see much of any activity 'til I got south of Bismarck," Schmidt said. "Think we're right on the edge of going along with a bunch of other people. I've heard of a few guys really cutting wheat acres because of input prices and the cash price has tanked the last few weeks. We'll see if those are true or in fact rumors."

Jason Hanson, owner of Rock and Roll Agronomy LLC, said on May 4 that spring wheat acres have zero enthusiasm right now due to markets. "People are sticking to their rotations. We have a four-day chance of light rain this weekend, and that will push us farther behind. No seeding has occurred here in the Devils Lake area. Still too wet and snowbanks to deal with. Low residual soil N levels and higher fertilizer prices are also not helping the wheat economics."

Hanson added that most of the farmers he works with have barley-wheat-canola-soybeans rotations. "Some have only three crops (drop barley), and some also have edible beans and corn. Folks with corn might have a little barley but mostly those farms are wheat-soybeans-canola-corn. I just sat down with a farmer this morning -- 1/4 canola, 1/4 soybeans and 1/2 wheat."

Cory Tryan, grain manager at Alton Grain Terminal LLC, said, "As mentioned before the snow melt, we felt May 10-25 for our plant window, and the ground is beginning to warm up and get into shape for it. Some snow in shelter belts and yards yet but, otherwise, all black dirt now. A few of the drier fields are being spread with fertilizer today, May 3. I would think some beets will be planted this weekend. The top is drying off quickly, and we could use a nice, warm half-inch to inch of rain to even things out. We have some rain forecasted for this weekend into early next week. Is it worth planting spring wheat other than for rotation purposes? A few acres will switch to other grains, but overall, no big changes in plans."

"It's safe to say we have wheat seed in the ground as of May 3," said Keith Brandt, general manager of Plains Grain and Agronomy LLC in Enderlin, North Dakota. "Not more than 100-200 acres, but we have started. Today, I'm comfortable with saying we will get as many wheat acres seeded as we did last year, but if we get delayed later into May, we lose wheat acres again. The market isn't as exciting as last year to preserve those acres. Just don't like planting wheat into late May. Will have some corn and soybeans in the ground by the weekend too. Slowly ramping up."

Kim Saueressig, McClusky, North Dakota, told DTN on May 4 that it was good to be back in the field. "Sounding like most everyone is going to get things going this week in our area. Farther east, I think guys are waiting a little bit more due to having a little more snow to melt off. We just started with barley on Tuesday, and things seem to be going really well. We're able to get most everything seeded. Have had to work a few low areas out to dry things, but it seems that most of the moisture from this winter has soaked in well.

"Most of our small grains will go on soybean ground from last year, and it's very surprising to see how dry the top is. Seed is getting into moisture, but it's already nerve-racking to see the powder on the topsoil. Showing rain in the forecast, and that wouldn't hurt anyone's feelings even if it does push the seeding back a few more days. We should wrap up with barley today, if not, easily by Friday. Then we'll get going on wheat and durum. Depending on the forecast, corn and beans will probably start next week too."

Jim Peterson, policy and marketing director of the North Dakota Wheat Commission, told DTN on May 5 that he was not hearing any major concerns about delays. "That probably indicates producers are making better progress in early May than what they expected in mid-April. I don't think it is enough acceleration in progress to get us back to normal on a state-wide level yet, as areas across the east and into the north have been slower to get going, in part due to soil temps, but also wet spots within fields.

"Ironically, many areas across the west could use a good shot of rain, even with the significant levels of snow we had this winter. Subsoil moisture is good, but the topsoil is getting dry. There is forecasted rain this weekend and into early next week, and as it is every year during planting, for some, it will be welcome and a benefit, but for others, it will only add to delays and wet spots in fields. We will have to see what levels we get and what the coverage looks like."

Peterson added, "At this stage, there is not any discussion on crop shifts due to the delays, but there is certainly a lot of producer frustration with the price direction of markets, at least up until the past week when we have seen some recovery. The decline in wheat prices during planting does not bode well for bringing in additional wheat acres from what the March survey indicated and, if anything, wheat acres may have lost more ground to other crops."

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