Wheat condition ratings mixed, corn plantings still lag

by Ron Sterk
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WASHINGTON — Crop condition ratings for U.S. winter wheat dropped one point from a week ago, but were mixed for individual states, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said in its weekly Crop Progress report. Corn planting increased seven points for the week, but still was well behind average.

Rated good to excellent as of April 22 was 54% of the winter wheat crop in the 18 major growing states, the U.S.D.A. said, compared with 55% a week earlier, 64% two weeks ago and 71% three weeks earlier. The sharp deterioration in crop ratings was the result of a major freeze across most of the winter wheat growing area around Easter weekend, followed by heavy snow in some areas a week later. Accurate losses still could not be fully determined in most states.

Rated poor to very poor was 21% of the wheat crop as of April 22, compared with 17% the previous week, 10% two weeks prior and 6% three weeks earlier. Twenty-five per cent of the crop was rated fair, down from 28% a week earlier.

Ratings in Kansas, the nation’s leading wheat producing state, declined further with 34% of the crop rated good to excellent, 25% fair and 41% poor to very poor, compared with 36%, 37% and 27%, respectively, a week earlier.

"Reporter comments indicate freeze damage to wheat in their areas is becoming more evident but can vary from field to field," the Kansas Agricultural Statistics office said. "Early planted wheat or early maturing varieties appear to have experienced the greater freeze damage." The Kansas office said 29% of the crop had severe freeze damage, 24% moderate, 20% light and 27% no damage.

Good to excellent ratings in Colorado decreased one point, to 76%. But good to excellent ratings in the other hard winter wheat states of Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas improved slightly from a week earlier.

Ratings dropped significantly in several soft winter wheat growing states. As of April 22, rated good to excellent in Missouri was 6% of the crop (10% a week earlier and 46% two weeks prior), Michigan 51% (56% and 72%), Indiana 28% (39% and 51%), North Carolina 32% (60% and 57%), and Arkansas 14% (28% and 54%). Good to excellent ratings in Illinois increased to 32% (28% and 56%), while Ohio was unchanged at 37% (40% two weeks earlier).

Winter wheat ratings in Tennessee and Kentucky declined, with both states’ latest weekly crop reports saying damage was more severe than thought a week earlier and many farmers were deciding whether to try and salvage a grain crop, cut it for hay or plant to another crop. The Tennessee crop was rated 84% poor to very poor (72% a week earlier and 3% two weeks prior), and 2% good to excellent (6% and 69%). Kentucky’s wheat crop was rated 80% poor to very poor (64% last week and 15% two weeks ago), and 4% good to excellent (16% and 64%).

Corn planting in the 18 major growing states was 11% completed as of April 22, up from only 4% a week earlier but well behind 22% last year and as average, the U.S.D.A. said. Traders had expected the number to increase to as much as 18% completed. Top corn producer Iowa was 8% done (0% last week and 18% average), Illinois 13% (0% and 37%), Indiana 4% (0% and 17%), Minnesota 0% (0% and 9%), Missouri 32% (18% and 61%), Nebraska 9% (1% and 11%), and Ohio 4% (1% and 16%).

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