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Kansas and Nebraska Farmers Keep Planting, Praying for Rain

Farmers across the plains of Kansas and Nebraska have been busy over the past week. Planting progress continued across the region, but corn progress remains behind the five-year average according to the latest USDA Crop Report released May 7, 2018. Many farms and ranches, especially in Kansas, are suffering from persistent drought conditions.


Kansas farmers planted 20% of the state’s corn crop this week bringing the total planted acreage to just 1% shy of the five-year average of 48%. Last year 5.5 million acres of corn were planted in Kansas.

Farmers in Nebraska also made significant progress. Planted corn acreage in the state jumped from 17% last week to 42%. This time of year, 46% of the corn crop is usually planted, according to the five-year average. The USDA Crop Production 2017 Summary says 9,550,000 acres of corn were planted in the state last year.

Corn emergence in Kansas is also just 1% behind the five-year average for this point in the growing season. The most recent USDA Crop Progress report shows 18% of the corn in Kansas has emerged, a 12% gain from last week’s numbers.

In Nebraska, only 2% of the corn crop has emerged. That is 8% behind the five-year average, and lags behind last year’s progress by 7%.


In Kansas soybean planting is ahead of schedule with 8% of the crop planted. Last week just 2% of the soybean crop was in the ground. Typically, 5% of Kansas soybeans have been planted by this time.

Farther north in Nebraska, soybean farmers are also running ahead of the five-year average. This time last year 12% of the state’s soybean crop was in the ground, right on pace with average. As of the latest USDA report, 16% of the crop has been planted this year. That means Nebraska famers planted 10% of the state’s soybean crop over the last week.

The USDA is not reporting soybean emergence numbers for the 2018 growing season yet. Those numbers are expected to be included in the next report scheduled for Monday, May 14.


Sorghum is also grown across parts of Kansas and Nebraska.

Kansas farmers have planted 1% of the crop so far this year. That is on target compared to the five-year average.

The neighbors to the north in Nebraska have fallen behind the average sorghum planting pace. The USDA says 6% is average for this time of year. At the time of the most recent report, 3% of the sorghum crop was in the ground.


Nebraska farmers grow a share of the U.S. oat crop. While significant progress was made this week, the oat planting pace continues to trail the average for this time of year. At this point, 79% of the crop is in the ground. That is a 16% improvement over last week’s status, but 13% behind the five-year average.

Oat emergence is also behind pace. While emergence in Nebraska jumped 14% since last week, the crop is still more than 25% behind the five-year average emergence rate.

Winter Wheat

Farmers continue to be concerned about the winter wheat crop in Kansas and Nebraska.

Just 19% of the crop has headed in Kansas. About 41% is normal for this time of year.

Nebraska winter wheat is also falling behind average heading progress. The USDA reports 3% is average for this point in the growing season, but no heading has been reported in the state yet this year.

As drought continues to plague the state, winter wheat conditions in the region are suffering. Even the best crops in the state are showing signs of stress. There is no excellent winter wheat in Kansas. Good wheat is at just 14%. A majority of the state’s crop is fair to poor. Next, 16% of the crop has been rated as very poor.

Conditions are more favorable in Nebraska, but still dry in some areas. At 51%, a majority of the state’s winter wheat crop is rated good. Also, 10% is excellent. Just 1% is very poor, and 6% is poor. To round things out, 32% of the Nebraska winter wheat crop is in fair condition.

Pasture and Range Conditions

In Kansas, pasture conditions are also suffering from drought. There is no excellent pasture in the state. One quarter of Kansas pastures are in good condition. The rest are in fair condition or worse. They are 45% fair, 21% poor, and 9% very poor.

In the Cornhusker State things are better, but not great. Just 2% of pastureland is in excellent shape, followed by 46% in excellent condition, and 40% rated fair. To round out the statistics, 10% is poor while 2% of the Nebraska range and pastureland is in very poor condition.

Nationally the average breakdown is 5% excellent, 37% good, 38% fair, 15% poor, and 5% very poor.

Weather and Soil Conditions

Drought conditions continue to persist in both states, although Nebraska did see a little bit relief in some areas.

As farmers look to make planting progress, soil moisture is critical.

U.S. Drought Monitor

Just 2% of Kansas acres have surplus top soil moisture. Many, at 45%, have adequate. However, most of the state is short or very short on top soil moisture at 29% and 24% respectively.

Most farms in Nebraska have adequate top soil moisture at 73%. Just a few, 2%, have surplus top soil moisture. One fifth of Nebraska is short on top soil moisture, and 2% is very short.

It is no surprise that there is no surplus of subsoil moisture in the state of Kansas. The latest USDA Crop Progress report says 39% of the state has adequate subsoil moisture followed by 37% short and 24% very short.

Only 1% of Nebraska has surplus subsoil moisture. Most areas, 69%, have adequate followed by 27% short on subsoil moisture. In Nebraska 3% of the soil is very short on subsoil moisture.

Last week, five days were suitable for fieldwork in Kansas. Farmers in Nebraska were not far behind with 4.6 days.

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