Wet and cold weather has area farmers behind in planting corn and soybeans, and the forecasts are threatening to make it even more difficult to catch up.
After another week of heavy rains, and even some snow, a warm and sunny Saturday is expected to end that round of moisture. The bad news, however, is that there are no signs of lengthy dry spells anytime soon in the Midwest. Several active weather systems, bringing more heavy rains to the area, are in the forecasts until mid-May, starting Sunday evening.
Larry Hummel, a Lee County corn and soybean farmer, has measured nearly 7 inches of precipitation on his rain gauge in the past 8 days. He has been able to get all of his nitrogen fertilizer down and start working some of the ground, but he only has a couple hundred acres of corn planted.
“We aren’t even 10 percent done with planting, and we’re usually close to 50 percent done by now,” Hummel said. “I like to be done by May 10 or May 15 at the latest, but with the rain we’ve had and more forecast, it will be a miracle if we even get started by the 15th.”
That number coincides with the situation in much of the Midwest, according to the latest U.S. Department of Agriculture crop progress report that covers the period through April 28. Nationwide, about 15% of the corn crop is in, well below the 5-year average of 27%. In Illinois, the corn planting number drops to 8%. Soybeans have more time before panic sets in. Nationwide, farmers have about 3% of their soybeans in the ground, half of the 6% 5-year average.
The weather had corn prices climbing and soybean prices dropping in the past week. Corn futures hit a 1-week high Monday on concerns that late planting would cut into supplies. Soybeans started to head in the opposite direction, however, on worries that the corn delays could cause farmers to shift more acreage to beans that can be planted later in the growing season. That would add to the global soybean market glut that could get worse as South American farmers harvest near-record yields.
“We have some time yet with the soybeans, but pretty soon the weather could ding the yield on those too,” Hummel said. “It’s a little early to decide to put more acreage into beans, but it’s in the back of their minds.”
Catching up gets tricky for farmers who have large areas to plant. Some fields will dry faster than others. If the weather cooperates, however, farmers are still hopeful that the crops can avoid serious damage.
“If all of my fields dry up at about the same time, I could have everything in 8 or 9 days, but I’m not very confident that we’ll be able to keep going in all fields,” Hummel said.
The combination of the moisture and low temperatures creates concerns about what has already been planted, especially for corn. Dry and warm soil is needed early in the growth process for proper germination to occur. Diseases such as sudden death syndrome strike early in the soybean growing season, but might not show up until the end of the growth cycle.
If there is a silver lining to the delayed planting, it comes with corn. The weather could prop up prices that have been low for several years and are suffering from another delay – the lack of a trade deal between the U.S. and China. A new deal with Mexico and Canada is also still being negotiated. Soybeans are less likely to find support any time soon. In addition to the trade uncertainties, the global oversupply and less demand because of African swine fever are weighing on that commodity.