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March 30, 2011

Areas of Concern for the U.S. Spring Planting

Cold and wet conditions in the northern Corn Belt - Cold and wet conditions across much of the upper Midwest appears to have put on hold (at least for another week) any hopes for an early spring. Some minor flooding has already started to occur in parts of North Dakota and it is expected to get worse as temperatures warm.

Most of the central Midwest is not excessively wet, but temperatures are cold and will not warm enough for planting until we see a change in the weather patterns. Corn needs a soil temperature 56 degrees fahrenheit for germination and those types of soil temperatures appear to be a long way off.

Hot and dry in the Southern Plains and Deep South - In contrast to the northern locations, in the southern U.S. warm spring temperatures have come earlier than normal, but they have not been accompanied by the normal amount of spring rains. Over the weekend, snow and rain moved across the mid-South, but the far southern locations remained basically dry. The warmer temperatures in the far southern locations will encourage spring planting, but subsoil moistures are very short and no recharge will occur without several episodes of showers.

Poor condition of the hard red winter wheat - The crop of greatest concern at the present time is the hard red winter wheat in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Colorado. The crop has been generally rated in poor condition ever since it was planted last fall. Dry weather over the winter and now limited spring moisture continuesto stress the crop. The crop has already broken dormancy and it should be growing rapidly now, but a lack of moisture has limited its growth.

Wheat has amazing recuperative powers and it can never be counted out until it is harvested, but there is a strong likelihood that some of the hard red winter wheat in the Southern Plains will not go on to grain production. In the hardest hit areas where the wheat is in the poorest condition, it may be grazed for pasture, claimed under crop insurance, or plowed up and planted to another crop. If another crop is planted in its place, the most likely candidate is probably sorghum which is more drought tolerant and able to grow in the non-irrigated areas. In more of the eastern areas where hard red winter wheat is grown such as eastern Kansas and eastern Oklahoma, if the wheat is torn up there may be some additional corn, cotton, or soybeans planted.