Winter wheat crop improve slightly, corn planting lags

by Ron Sterk
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WASHINGTON — Crop condition ratings for U.S. winter wheat edged up slightly while corn planting fell well below last year and average as of April 29, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said in its latest weekly Crop Progress report.

Rated good to excellent as of April 29 was 56% of the winter wheat crop in the 18 major growing states, the U.S.D.A. said. That rating compares with 54% the previous week and 71% the week before the Easter weekend freeze across much of the winter wheat growing area. The crop was rated 19% poor to very poor, compared with 21% a week earlier and 6% before the freeze.

Kansas was the hard red winter wheat state most affected by the freeze. The state’s crop was rated 39% good to excellent and 37% poor to very poor, compared with 34% and 41%, respectively, a week earlier, and 77% and 4%, respectively, before the freeze. Kansas Agricultural Statistics said 51% of the wheat crop showed moderate to severe freeze damage and 49% had light or no damage as of April 29.

The annual Kansas wheat tour, sponsored by the Wheat Quality Council, began touring fields Tuesday and concludes Thursday.

Several soft winter wheat states saw more damage from the freeze. As of April 29, winter wheat in Missouri was rated 5% good to excellent (6% a week earlier and 65% before the freeze), and 64% poor to very poor (64% last week, 8% prior to the freeze). Illinois wheat was rated 25% good to excellent (32% a week earlier), and 37% poor to very poor (29%).

The Kentucky field office of the U.S.D.A. said 81% of the wheat crop was in poor to very poor condition, 16% fair and 3% good as of April 29, compared with 5%, 18% and 77%, respectively, as of April 1.

"Many farmers are cutting the wheat for hay or burning down the damaged wheat and plan to replant with early season soybeans," the office said.

The Tennessee Department of Agriculture rated that state’s winter wheat as 83% poor to very poor, 13% fair and 4% good to excellent, compared with 3%, 28% and 69%, respectively, before the freeze occurred. Farmers also were cutting wheat for hay in Tennessee, the state’s Agriculture Department said.

Planting of the U.S. corn crop was 23% completed as of April 29, up from 11% a week earlier but well behind 48% last year and 42% as the 2002-06 average for the date, the U.S.D.A. said. Traders had expected the planting number to be 35% or better, with hopes that fields had dried out enough to allow more progress.

Corn planting in top-producing Iowa was only 14% done, compared with 58% last year and 46% as average. Planting in Illinois was 36% completed (59% as average for the date), Indiana 13% (34%), Ohio 19% (36%), Minnesota 28% (38%), and Nebraska 14% (31%).

Soybean planting in the 18 major states was 3% completed as of April 29, compared with 9% last year and 7% as the five-year average. Most progress was in southern states.

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