Winter wheat crop improves; corn planting quickens

by Ron Sterk
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WASHINGTON – The U.S. winter wheat crop condition improved slightly while corn plantings made impressive gains as of May 6, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said in its latest weekly Crop Progress report.

Rated good to excellent as of May 6 was 57% of the winter wheat crop in the 18 major growing states, up one percentage point from 56% a week earlier and much better than 35% on the same date last year, the U.S.D.A. said. The crop was rated 18% poor to very poor, compared with 19% a week earlier.

The condition of the crop in Kansas, the top hard red winter wheat state, was rated 37% good to excellent, down from 39% a week earlier, with 35% rated poor to very poor, down from 37% the previous week. Participants on the Wheat Quality Council’s hard red winter wheat tour April 30 to May 3 indicated the most severe damage from an Easter weekend freeze was limited to five or six counties in central Kansas, where some fields were a total loss. But the crop in other parts of the state, especially western Kansas, was better than expected.

Crop ratings in most other major hard winter wheat states showed modest improvement from a week earlier.

Condition of the soft winter wheat crop also improved in most major growing states. Good to excellent ratings improved some in Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri and Ohio, but declined in North Carolina, the U.S.D.A. said. It was thought that damage from the Easter weekend freeze had a broader impact in the soft winter wheat area than in the hard winter area.

As of May 6, winter wheat in Missouri was rated 9% good to excellent (5% a week earlier) and 59% poor to very poor (64%), Illinois was 26% good to excellent (25%) and 38% poor to very poor (37%), Arkansas was 16% good to excellent (15%) and 56% poor to very poor (61%) and North Carolina was 30% good to excellent (34%) and 38% poor to very poor (27%).

The corn crop in the 18 major growing states rushed ahead to 53% planted as of May 6, up sharply from 23% a week earlier but still behind 63% as the 2002-06 average for the date, the U.S.D.A. said. The gain was more than traders expected and futures markets traded lower early Tuesday as a result. Studies show that corn planted after May 15 in the Corn Belt begin to show yield losses compared with corn planted before that date. Mostly dry weather was forecast for the Corn Belt which should allow significant progress again this week.

Corn planting as of May 6 in top-producing Iowa was 53% completed (14% a week earlier and 72% as average), Illinois was 72% (36% and 73%), Indiana was 42% (13% and 52%), Minnesota was 70% (28% and 69%), and Nebraska was 40% (14% and 58%).

Soybean planting in the 18 major states was 10% completed as of May 6, compared with 3% a week earlier and 17% as the five-year average.

Spring wheat planting in the six major producing states was 68% completed as of May 6, up from 34% a week earlier and ahead of 62% as the five-year average.

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