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USDA Crop Production

11 May 2012

USDA Crop Production - 11 May 2012USDA Crop Production - 11 May 2012

Most of the Nation continued to experience unusually warm weather, with record-setting April warmth noted across portions of the southern Plains. Monthly temperatures averaged at least 5 degrees Fahrenheit above normal at numerous locations on the central and southern High Plains.
USDA Crop Production Report

April Weather Summary

Cooler-than-normal weather was generally limited to areas along the Pacific Coast and parts of the Great Lakes region and Northeastern States. In the latter region, early-blooming fruit crops were threatened by a series of freezes, the worst of which struck much of Michigan, New York, and Pennsylvania from April 27-30.

During April, significantly above average precipitation was mostly limited to the Pacific Coast States, the northern Rockies, southern Florida, northern Maine, and parts of the Plains and upper Midwest. Rainfall was especially important across the northern Plains and upper Midwest, where dryness had begun to develop in late-summer 2011. In contrast, mostly dry weather prevailed across the eastern Corn Belt and much of the South. Planting advanced quickly across the dry regions, but pastures, winter grains, and emerging summer crops were in need of moisture in drought-affected areas of the southern High Plains and the lower Southeast.

Meanwhile, cool, showery weather slowed spring fieldwork and crop development in California and the Northwest. Elsewhere, further deterioration of water-supply prospects occurred in the Four Corners States, where April warmth prematurely melted already meager snowpacks.

April Agricultural Summary

Warmer than normal temperatures and generally adequate soil moisture levels during April promoted record-setting planting and development paces for many crops. Average temperatures were more than 8 degrees above normal in areas of the Rocky Mountains and Texas during the month, while near-normal temperatures prevailed along the Pacific Coast and throughout the Ohio Valley. Precipitation totals for the month were below normal throughout much of the United States.

In the Southeast, dry conditions limited cotton and peanut planting in some fields. Elsewhere, moisture benefitted small grain development in the Great Plains while limiting fieldwork in portions of the Pacific Northwest and California. By April 1, corn planting was active in half of the 18 major estimating States, with 3 percent of the Nation’s crop in the ground, slightly ahead of both last year and the 5-year average. While favorably warm early-spring weather across most of the major corn-producing regions promoted an early start to fieldwork, producers in some locations remained hesitant out of concern of a spring freeze. Warm, dry weather continued throughout the month, providing ample time for fieldwork.

Emergence was 9 percent complete by April 22, seven percentage points ahead of both last year and the 5-year average. Producers continued planting at a blistering pace during the second half of the month. By April 29, fifty-three percent of the Nation’s crop was in the ground, 26 percentage points ahead of the 5-year average, with progress 21 percentage points or more ahead of normal in 7 of the top 10 producing States.

Crop Comments

Winter wheat: Production is forecast at 1.69 billion bushels, up 13 percent from 2011. Based on May 1 conditions, the United States yield is forecast at 47.6 bushels per acre, up 1.4 bushels from last year. Expected grain area totals 35.6 million acres, up 10 percent from last year. As of May 1, sixty-four percent of the winter wheat crop in the 18 major producing States was rated in good to excellent condition, 30 points above the same week in 2011, and heading had reached 54 percent, 30 points ahead of the 5-year average.

The combination of a mild winter and spring, paired with timely precipitation, resulted in beneficial growing conditions in the Great Plains States. Precipitation this spring not only aided the winter wheat crop, but also improved pasture and hay fields, leading cattle producers to harvest wheat acreage for grain instead of hay. Current crop conditions have improved from last year in all major Hard Red Winter (HRW) producing states except Montana and South Dakota. As of May 1, the percent of crop rated good to excellent in Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas was 27 points or more higher than last year, contributing to forecasted yield increases for those States.

Crop conditions were varied in several of the Soft Red Winter (SRW) producing States due to cooler than normal spring temperatures. Yields are forecasted to be down in the Coastal Plains States and the Southeast, where many States set record yields in 2011. However, yields are expected to be up from last year in much of the Corn Belt and the Northeast. Warmer temperatures and adequate moisture in the Pacific Northwest left growers optimistic after a predominantly cool start to the spring growing season. As of May 1, crop conditions reported as good to excellent were unchanged in Idaho, down 8 points in Oregon, while up 18 points in Washington compared to last year. Yields are forecast to be down from last year in Oregon and Washington but up in Idaho.

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