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April 23, 2014

Corn Planting Progress Remains Slow in the U.S.

As of Sunday, 6% of the U.S. corn crop had been planted compared to the five-year average of 14%. Most of the corn planting progress was in the more southern locations including: Louisiana at 97%, Mississippi at 64%, Texas at 60%, Arkansas at 52%, Missouri at 26%, Kansas at 21%, and Tennessee at 19%.

In the heart of the Corn Belt Illinois leads with 5% of the corn planted, Nebraska has 4%, and Iowa has 2%. One percent or less of the corn was planted in Ohio, Indiana, Minnesota, South Dakota, and North Dakota. The average start for field work in North Dakota is estimated at April 29th.

Needless to say, the spring planting continues to get off to a slow start, but the planting pace should accelerate somewhat this week before another punch of cool air moves into the Midwest over the weekend. Many farmers have been waiting for the soil temperatures to warm up enough to insure rapid corn germination. Thanks to the warm weather over the weekend, the soil temperatures at the 4 inch depth in Iowa and Illinois are now in the low to mid-50s, which is about the minimum for corn germination.

In order for the corn crop to be planted at an average pace, we need approximately 50% of the corn in the ground by about the end of the first week of May, which is two and a half weeks away. That goal is still possible of course, but I think the odds are increasing that it may be difficult to reach 50% by that date.

There has been some much needed rainfall in limited areas of the western Corn Belt especially in parts of Iowa and eastern Nebraska. It has not been enough to replenish the depleted soil moisture, but every little bit helps. The areas that still need additional moisture include: Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, central Nebraska, western Iowa, southwestern Minnesota, and southeastern South Dakota.

Dry soils in the spring are a double edged sword. Dry soils warm up faster and allow for rapid planting progress, but if the soil moisture is not replenished before summer, there may not be enough subsoil moisture to sustain the crop later in the summer.