The following content was provided by meteorologist Gail Martell of MartellCropProjections.com:
Some Midwest Corn Planted Last Week
It was warm enough to plant corn last week in the U.S. heartland with brilliant sunshine and stable, warm high pressure. Corn planting may have begun in Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Illinois, where brilliant sunshine and unseasonable warmth occurred last week, perhaps 5% to 7% of the U.S. crop. As of April 1 just 3% of U.S. corn was sown. Producers intend to seed 95.9 million acres of corn -- the highest since 1944 -- based on a survey conducted by USDA. Early planting dates would help farmers meet that goal.
Heartland soils warmed into the mid- and upper 50s, and above the 50°F threshold for germinating seeds. Fields conditions were cooler in the Eastern Midwest and Great Lakes, where night frosts frequently developed last week.
Corn producers would be happy for a soaking rain as conditions have been incredibly dry the past 10 days to two weeks. Gusty winds have further reduced topsoil moisture. Subsoil moisture is running low in Nebraska and central Illinois, where rainfall has been scanty for two months already.
Midwest shower chances are expected to improve later in the week. A trough of low pressure in the Great Plains would spin out waves of showers into the Midwest, beginning Thursday night- Friday and continuing through the weekend. Frost is still expected the in the northern and eastern Corn Belt this week, repeating Monday-Wednesday nights before strong warming occurs.
Spring Planting Delays in China, Too Cold and Dry
The warmth in the United States is just opposite of China, where persistent cold has continued in the Northeast corn growing area. Fields are still frozen on the Manchurian Plain as the daily average temperatures in April have been only upper 20s - low 30s F.
Winter wheat conditions are questionable in North China, due to a persistent pattern of cold, dry weather. Shandong and Henan, the 2 leading wheat provinces, have received only 45-65% of normal rainfall in the recent 4 months. Irrigation water may be applied in North China during periods of drought, but persistent cold temperatures have held back crop development. Conditions finally warmed up last week reaching the 60s F for highs and 40s F at night.
European Winter Grain Production May Shrink
Drought losses in Western Europe continues to worry grain analysts. Strategie Grains last month reduced its estimate European 2012 wheat production ( including durum) to 139.5 million metric tons, citing winterkill and drought as causes. This would still be 1.5% above last year's production, however.
Is the current estimate still too high? The satellite vegetation image, valid in mid March, showed sub-standard growth and development across the continent. Only United Kingdom conditions appeared better than the five-year average. Spring drought is good reason to expect a substandard wheat harvest, in France, especially, but also Germany, Spain and Italy. United Kingdom has avoided severe crop damage only from cooler growing conditions.
There has been little discussion about East European winter grain potential, where prospects are expected to be poor, and way less than last year's bumper crop.
East Europe winter grains were plagued by poor planting conditions last fall from drought, the same "blocking" ridge of high pressure that caused intense drought in neighboring Ukraine. Precipitation began to increase in the winter, replenishing field moisture. However, due to poor fall establishment, yield potential will not be recovered. Poland and southern Europe have sub-par prospects for winter grain production in the 2012 harvest, dragging the EU-27 grain harvest lower. Eastern Europe grows approximately 18% of European Union winter wheat.