No go on Upper Midwest planting

Most farmers not yet in the fields

Spring wheat in midsummer. (Jenny Schlecht / Agweek)

They're planting cotton in Arizona, sorghum in Texas and rice in Louisiana. But not spring wheat in the Upper Midwest.

In South Dakota, where spring wheat normally starts going into the ground in late March or early April, wet fields have kept all but a handful of farmers from planting the crop, said Reid Christopherson, executive director of the South Dakota Wheat Commission.

"A few people might have been out to apply fertilizer. But not many are rolling yet," he said, adding that the coronavirus pandemic and social distancing make keeping track of the planting pace more difficult than usual.

Spring wheat wasn't even included in the weekly crop progress report released Monday, April 6, by the National Agricultural Statistics Service, an arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It was the first weekly report of the 2020 crop season.

Oats, another crop that's planted early in the area, was covered by the April 6 report. But no oats have been planted yet in the Upper Midwest, according to the report.


Winter wheat is covered by the new report, too, and South Dakota's crop is faring well overall, Christopherson said.

So far, 12% of the state's crop is rated excellent, 71 % good, 16% fair and 1% poor.

That's well above the average overall condition in the 18 states covered by the report. The 18 accounted for 91% of U.S. winter wheat acres in 2019.

In the 18 states, 9% of winter wheat was rated excellent, 53% good, 29% fair, 7% poor and 2% very poor.

The condition of Montana's winter wheat crop was roughly comparable to the 18-state average. In Montana, 2% was rated excellent, 50% good, 45% fair, 2% poor and 1% very poor..

The weather wasn't conductive to planting in the week ending April 6, according to the report.

During the week, 2.7 days were suitable for fieldwork in Iowa. In Montana, 1.5 days were suitable. In South Dakota, North Dakota and Minnesota, 0.8 days, 0.7 days and 0.6 days, respectively, were suitable.

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