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Planting delays seen for northern plains

Most of the attention in the wheat market right now is focused on the southern Plains (and I am not hopeful for improvement there, despite overnight output from the European weather model that suggested 0.50-1.00" rains for Kansas for Sunday/Sunday night), but I wanted to spend some time today discussing the northern Plains as I am getting a lot of indications that the planting pace in this area for the next two months is going to be playing a key role in price action for wheat as well as corn/soybean prices

. This attention is all due to the fact that this area saw so much snow during the winter (it was the snowiest winter ever recorded for places like Williston and Watertown), and all that snow melting away this spring has everyone fearful of a slow start to spring fieldwork. Make no mistake that it is going to be a quite a while before a lot of fieldwork can take place, as the northern Plains are currently saturated from all of the snow melt and much of the area is currently under flood warnings.

Many want to compare this situation to what occurred in 2009, when we saw a record crest of the Red River at Fargo. In my opinion though, the current situation is better than what we had at this time in 2009. Obviously we have yet to see any sort of reports of record-flooding in that area. We have also melted off a lot of the snow cover in the region, with no snow on the ground this morning for places like Fargo, Grand Forks, Bismarck and Watertown while the snow cover at Williston is down to two inches. (This is pretty remarkable for a place like Watertown, where there was a foot of snow on the ground as recently as March 19 and two feet on March 14.)

Compare this data to snow cover for the northern Plains on April 6, 2009. On that date we had snow on the ground throughout all of the Dakotas (5 inches at Fargo, 3 at Grand Forks, 7 at Bismarck)...and also throughout western/northern Minnesota, much of Nebraska, and even northwestern Iowa! Because of all this we had severe planting delays in the spring of 2009 in the northern Plains. By May 10 of that year, only 7 percent of the North Dakota corn crop had been planted (versus the 5-year average of 57 percent) and only 13 percent of the spring wheat had been planted in that state (versus the five-year average of 74 percent).

Despite those early season delays, North Dakota farmers went on to harvest a very good wheat crop that year, with the 2009 North Dakota wheat yield up 8.8 bushel/acre from the previous year. North Dakota corn yields in 2009 were down 5 bpa from the previous year but were above the levels of 2007. Neighboring South Dakota had a corn yield in 2009 of 153 bpa...20 bpa higher than was recorded in 2008. No one wants to see planting delays in the spring, but 2009 proved that northern Plains crops can still be very good even if the crop is planted late in the spring. In my opinion, our current situation is also not as bad as it was in this time in 2009.

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