‘Historic flooding’ seriously delays US maize plantings

‘Historic flooding’ seriously delays US maize plantings
Maize farmers in the US are facing severe hardship following unprecedented flooding across the central states.
Photo: governor.arkansas.gov

Farmers in the US have turned to social media to show how far behind they are with the planting season this year, due to the severe weather conditions the country is experiencing.

Using the hashtag #NoPlant19, they are posting photos of the terrible conditions that are preventing them from planting their crops this spring.

This follows the record-breaking floods that have been overwhelming the central US in recent weeks. Evacuations are currently underway in the region, while flood warnings have been issued across Oklahoma, Kansas, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois and parts of Nebraska and Iowa.

“This is a flood of historic magnitude,” Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson said in a recent statement.

Farmers in the region had been particularly hit hard during their spring planting window.

According to the forecast of the US Department of Agriculture’s Prospective Plantings report for March, the area that was expected to be planted to maize would be around 92,8 million acres (about 37,5 million hectares).

However, to date farmers had only planted an estimated 58%, or about 53,8 million acres (21,77 million hectares) of maize.

On average, farmers in the affected states, that represent a majority of the nation’s harvest, would have planted 90%of their maize and 66% of their soya bean crops by the end of May.

According to a USDA report, this makes it the slowest year on record. Farmers traditionally finished planting by 31 May.

The relentless rain had resulted in some farmers considering scaling back production.

“If you think trying to figure out your seed order for the year is hard, try figuring out how much you don’t need as you slowly abandon acres that are too wet,” Brian Tweten, a producer near Thompson in North Dakota said

This year’s weather had pushed farmers close to their limits, according to Scott Irwin, an agricultural economist at the University of Illinois. “We’re about 20 percentage points behind the worst years of the last 40.”

“A farmer has to, right now, go through a very complicated decision-making process.

“Do I take the sure thing of US$357 [per acre], have a small amount of expenses for cover crop and weed control, and I’m down for this year on those acres, or do I chance it by continuing to plant maize in less than ideal conditions, very, very late [according to] recommended planting windows? That’s the trade-off, and that’s what farmers are desperately trying to figure out right now.”

Irwin said he estimated that one-third of the area that had been forecast for maize crops would remain unplanted.