Wet in the East, dry in the West: How will planting season pan out?

By Doug Tenney, Leist Mercantile

The March 31 USDA Reports are now behind us. The Prospective Plantings Report served to provide surprises, almost something for everyone. U.S. corn acres were estimated at 89.5 million acres, down from last year’s 93.3 million acres. Trader estimates were 92.0 million acres. It was a huge surprise, as the front number began with “8.” No doubt the ever escalating prices for corn inputs played a huge role in the acres decline. Fertilizer prices last fall were several hundred more dollars per ton compared to those in the fall of 2020. New crop December CBOT in early trading after the noon release was up the 35-cent limit, closing at $6.83 ¾, up 27 ¾ on the March 31 report day. U.S. 2022 soybean acres were pegged at 90.95 million acres, a new record, up from the previous record acres in 2017 when U.S. farmers planted 90.2 million acres. November soybeans closed that report day at $14.20 ½, down 49 ¾ cents. One takeaway for that report day, corn and soybeans don’t always have to follow the same price trend for the day. It could easily be a trend which continues.

The last time U.S. corn fell below 90 million acres was 2019 when acres were only 89.7 million. Reduced U.S. corn acres only adds more emphasis to previous thoughts that world corn tightness would take more than one production year to erase world-wide supply concerns. 

Weather looks to be a major force dominating market features into mid-June. At this writing there has been just one 70-degree day in central Ohio so far this year, taking place on March 5. Very little Ohio field preparation activity has taken place early April. Some weather folks are anticipating high probability of limited planting activity for Ohio during April. Precipitation appears to be above average for the month. Weather patterns then shift, raising much concern for below normal rains this summer.

Early April paints a much different weather picture for the U.S. southern Plains, warm and dry conditions are expected into mid-April. Weather concerns in the Midwest continue. If the warm and dry conditions persist during the spring in the southern Plains, they can then expand and move into the western Corn Belt. Continued warm and dry conditions in the west present problematic issues for the eastern Corn Belt, with those same warm and dry conditions if the blocking ridge remains in place. 

In early March, I had the opportunity to attend the 2022 Winter Partnership Meeting of the Ohio Federation of Soil and Water Conservation Districts (OFSWCD). A most interesting presentation by Aaron B. Wilson, Research Scientist with the Byrd Center and State Climate Office of Ohio and OSU Extension Climate Specialist, provided weather and climate information. One chart in particular was a huge takeaway for me. The chart detailed Ohio April days suitable for fieldwork. Recent years compared to 30 years ago revealed Ohio is experiencing 5 less days of fieldwork for April versus 30 years ago. What does that mean for our readers? For producers, it emphasizes when the weather is right with field conditions to your liking, be ready to plant in an aggressive posture, with long hours in the fields to gain the potential to harvest above average yields. 

The Ohio Field Office of the Great Lakes Region of the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), issues a weekly Crop Progress and Condition Report for Ohio during the growing season from April into November on Mondays at 4 p.m. ET. It includes days suitable for fieldwork, degree days, temperature, precipitation information, and more. 

Subscribe to this report at: nass.usda.gov/Statistics_by_State/Ohio/Subscribe_to_OH_Reports/index.php.

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