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Throwing the brakes on corn planting?

Jeff Caldwell 04/23/2012 @ 3:46pm Multimedia Editor for Agriculture.com and Successful Farming magazine.

If they keep moving at this rate, by the second week of May, there may not be a whole lot of corn left to plant in the U.S. But, looking at the forecast for the coming week or so, that could be a big if.

Monday's USDA-NASS Crop shows farmers hav 28% of the crop in the ground, up from 17% last week and a full 20% higher than last year by this week. While it's well ahead of the normal pace, that 28% completion still fell well behind the 35% to 39% average trade estimate, traders say.

But, while the trade overshot corn planting progress, it did the opposite with soybean planting. As of Sunday, USDA shows 6% of the nation's bean crop is planted, while the trade expected a number around 3% to 4%.

The greatest planting strides for corn continue to come in Illinois, where farmers made an 18% jump in planting progress to 59% complete over the last week. That quick start out of the gate has some traders and analysts speculating whether such a quick start could mean a lot of new-crop corn available to the market by late August, which could exert downward pressure on the corn trade.

Despite this early jump, there's growing concern that the cooler, wet conditions that have dominated the weather in much of the Corn Belt over the last week or so will manifest itself as a slower week of planting progress once next week's Crop Progress numbers roll around.


"Will corn planting progress slow down because of the cold weather? The 6-10 temperature forecast calls for colder than normal temperatures for the end of April into early May," says Craig Solberg, meteorologist with Freese-Notis Weather, Inc., in Des Moines, Iowa.

Adds Cargill Senior Grain Merchandiser in Eddyville, Iowa, Ray Jenkins: "The question becomes whether another slow week in the west will translate into the need for new crop risk premium. I think a lot of folks are ready for sunshine and good planting conditions and don’t relish the thought of having to plant in cool and wet conditions once again this year."

But, if you can make it through the expected cool, damp snap in the next few days, you could get back to planting in better conditions, Solberg says. "Look for warmer conditions in early May," he says. And, though a lot of progress has been made in some areas, it's still early and there's still a lot of time left to get the crop in.

"It is still very early and with dry weather forecast for much of this week I expect a lot of progress to be made and farmers to get their corn planted in a timely manner," adds Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey.

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