US Winter Wheat Plantings

The current situation in the US is very reminiscent of our own harvest here in the UK last year, where a very wet August and September dragged the wheat harvest through to the latter half of October in some areas.

As we now know that (and poor prices) also saw winter wheat plantings drop sharply in the UK, with significant increases in spring barley and OSR sowings.

As we also now know what winter wheat did manage to get into the ground only ultimately returned average yields in the subsequent harvest.

Fast forward twelve months to the corn/soybean harvest and winter wheat plantings in the US. What we do know now is that the US corn harvesting was only 20% complete October 24, the slowest pace in modern agricultural times. At 44% complete the US soybean harvest also broke records for slowness, dating back to the mid 1980s, says Gail Martell of Martell Crop Projections:

"October flooding is delaying US planting, and the soft red winter wheat acreage may be down sharply this year as a result," says Gail:

Where things differ markedly for US farmers from their UK counterparts twelve months ago however, are the choices left open to them right now.

Those with "prevented planting" insurance who are struggling to get their wheat in can claim up to 60% of their expected income from next season's crop, and sit tight and wait for spring.

Those without "prevented planting" but with other types of crop insurance, can press ahead with attempting to get their crop into cold, wet, claggy soil. The likely lower yields they may get next season would probably enable them to make some sort of insurance claim, but it would be reduced because the crop was planted later than the optimum timeframe.

Those without any insurance at all can simply plant in mud and hope for the best.

A more sensible approach surely however would be to sit tight and wait for spring. That brings the option of spring wheat, corn or soybeans - and the knowledge of how prices have fluctuated across the winter.

One report on Reuters this week quoted one crop consultant who tracks 10,000 wheat acres in southern Indiana. He said that of those only 700 acres, or 7%, had been planted. And of those 700 he expected 200 to be ripped up and the insurance money banked.

It seems like a complete "no-brainer" that wheat acres will be down this year, and in addition the liklihood must also be that what has been planted under adverse conditions will see some detrimental effect on yields come harvest time.