Planting catches up, but markets still erratic

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planting soybeans
(Farm and Dairy file photo)

This is the time of year when we focus on planting progress. That is significant this year especially because we have been far behind normal. That all changed this week as we made great strides toward normalcy, both in corn and soybeans.

The market so far this spring has been a study in traders’ perceptions of how planting is proceeding.

Corn planting

We started out with minimal progress, and into the first few days of May saw little tractor movement in much of the corn belt.

Anecdotal reports were that “not a wheel has turned.” A lot of wheels turned in the last week, as the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported late May 23 that, as of May 22, Ohio was now up to 52% planted on corn, not that far from the average of 59%. That was a gain of a remarkable 21% in one week. It mostly seems slow because last year at this time we were at 79%.

The U.S., meanwhile, is at 72%, closing in on the normal 79% after a gain of 23% in a week. Of course, last year we were at 89% planted.

For perspective, remember that last year farmers had a lot of pent-up need to get going after the disaster of late planting the year before which saw major parts of prime farmland planted in June.

Soybean planting

Correspondingly, soybean planting made great gains. Ohio got to 36% planted, up from just 18% the week before. Last year, however, we were at 61% at this time of the month. The average is 43%. The U.S. at the same time got to 50% planted on soybeans, up 20% in a week. Last year, we had 73% in, versus a normal 55%.

Thus, we are catching up in good time, and planting will be a little late, but not a concern in most areas if good weather continues.

There has been widespread shower activity in the last couple of days, but we should be glad to get that to get the chemicals settled and the crops emerging in good shape.

Exception

The exception to this progress lies in North Dakota and Western Minnesota. A very wet spring there has flooded the Red River Valley in May instead of the normal April, and we are hearing talk of prevented planting on corn and on their main crop, spring wheat.

It should be noted that North Dakota, once about as important to national statistics in corn as Northeast Ohio, is now a major corn producer. It is still limited, however, but expected frost dates that require corn planting in May, not even in early June. It remains to be seen if that can happen.

The spring wheat can be planted in the first half of June, but normally with serious yield concerns. Those come as the pollination period is pushed back into what is normally hot and dry weeks.

This year, we are seeing long-term forecasts that have us hotter and dryer than normal in that region, acerbating the problem. This spring wheat problem comes after a horrible year last year.

Last year, these same farmers planted far fewer acres than normal, and then had poor, drought-reduced yields.

Differing price patterns

Corn and soybeans had differing price patterns last week. Corn started out with a limit-up move in response to India reports that they would not export wheat due to the crop burning up at the end of maturity. “Burning up” is how you describe what happens in 130-degree heat.

Originally, their wheat was seen as helping to replace the bushels lost out of the Black Sea region due to the war in Ukraine. They expected to export 10 MMT. A clarification of the export news was that previous commitments from government to government would be honored, so now it is thought that 2 MMT will be exported.

The reaction to that clarification put corn back down, and with no news to support it, the prices kept dropping. We lost 17 cents for the week on a 40-cent range.

The July corn futures recent high was April 29 at $8.241⁄2. We were trading at $8.241⁄2 the morning of May 24.

On the other hand, soybeans gained 24 cents last week. July soybean futures have shown a strong monthly pattern, with similar highs. The high Feb. 24 was $17.41. The high March 23 was $17.13. The high May 23 was $17.20. The morning of May 24, we were trading at $16.803⁄4.

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Marlin Clark is an associate of Russell Consulting Group, with a local office in Williamsfield, Ohio. Comments are welcome at 440-363-1803.

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