The News & What it Means: Difficult Task Ahead for US Spring Wheat Planting

By John DePutter & Dave Milne – April 24, 2019
The news:

“Just 5% of the national spring wheat crop was in the ground as of Sunday, according to Monday’s USDA crop progress report.”

– Syngenta website article, Apr. 22, 2019

What it means:

US planting is running behind obviously, and there may not be as much opportunity this year for producers to catch up.

At just 5% complete as of Sunday (April 21), spring wheat planting was running a major 17 points behind the five-year average and failed to meet pre-report trade expectations of 7% done.

However, it must also be noted that despite this year’s slow pace, spring wheat planting is still 2 points ahead of a year ago when unseasonably cold conditions across the northern Plains meant there was still snow and the ground remained frozen in some places. But as most will remember, the flip of the calendar from April to May a year ago suddenly brought much warmer and drier weather – so much so that national spring wheat planting was essentially caught back up to normal by the third of week of May at about 80% done.

So, could that happen again?

Anything is possible, but current conditions suggest it might be difficult.

For example, in the largest spring wheat state of North Dakota, producers had yet to get any spring wheat in the ground this year as of Sunday (versus the average of 12% complete). No planting had yet occurred in the state at the same point last year, but it bears noting that at that time, the fields were at least drier, with topsoil moisture rated only 3% surplus. This time around, North Dakota producers are staring down topsoil moisture rated as much as 21% surplus.

And while the weather across the northern Plains is starting out mostly warm and dry this week, a fast-moving disturbance is expected to produce showers again by Friday. Further, the National Weather Service’s 6-10 and 8-14-day outlooks both point to a wetter bias across the northern Plains and much of the rest of the country.

6-10-day precipitation outlook indicates above-normal precipitation ahead for most areas in the US.

Similarly, in Minnesota – where no spring wheat had also yet been planted by Sunday either this year or last – topsoil moisture is currently rated 57% surplus, versus 43% last year. Farther south in South Dakota, where spring wheat planting is already running 45 points behind the average, topsoil moisture is now rated 41% surplus, against only 4% at this time in 2018.

With today’s farm equipment, even a small window of opportunity can result in major planting progress, as witnessed last year. And since US spring wheat planting doesn’t normally wrap up until the end of May, there’s still time.

Global wheat supplies remain heavy and producers on this side of the border are expected to plant more spring wheat this year, so the US planting troubles thus far admittedly haven’t made much of an impression on the market. But if American producers continue to struggle to make any significant headway over the next couple of weeks, as current forecasts suggest, it becomes increasingly likely not all of this year’s intended 12.8 million spring wheat acres – already down 3% from a year earlier and well below expectations – will get planted.

Keep up on all of the latest spring planting and weather developments with our morning reports.

Try a FREE 3 week trial

Good Morning Prairies

Good Morning Prairies


Your five minute information manager.

Try a FREE 3 week trial

E-Morning Ontario

E-Morning Ontario


Your five minute information manager.