2013 Crop Season Begins

Story & Photos by Robyn Scherer
Kiowa, Colo.
A land planer is used in Western Colorado to prep a field for alfalfa planting.

Across the state, farmers are beginning to prep their fields and make their seed decisions for the 2013 growing season. Corn planting will begin in the next three to four weeks, with other crops being planted now, and winter wheat is beginning to emerge.

On March 28, the USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service released their projected plantings for 2013. “Growers intend to plant 97.3 million acres of corn for all purposes in 2013, up slightly from last year and 6 percent higher than in 2011. Expected returns for corn are again historically high going into 2013. If realized, this will represent the highest planted acreage in the United States since 1936 when an estimated 102 million acres were planted. Record high corn acreage is expected in Arizona, Idaho, Minnesota, Nevada, North Dakota and Oregon. Conversely, most states in the Corn Belt, which experienced severe drought in 2012, expect slightly less planted acreage,” the report stated.

In Colorado, growers intend to plant 1.25 million acres, a 12 percent decrease compared to what was planted last year.

Soybean planting, which is not a large crop in Colorado, usually occurs in conjunction with or directly after corn planting. The USDA projected plantings reported stated, “Soybean planted area for 2013 is estimated at 77.1 million acres, down slightly from last year but the fourth highest on record, if realized. Compared with 2012, planted area is down across the Great Plains with the exception of North Dakota. Nebraska and Minnesota are expecting the largest declines compared with last year, while Illinois and North Dakota are expecting the largest increases.”

Winter wheat is beginning to make its appearance in some areas. Total wheat planted is going to see a six percent decrease, with farmers reporting 2.217 million acres being planted. This number is under both 2012 and 2011 figures. Of this figure, 2.2 million acres are winter wheat.

Wheat conditions are not favorably, however. According to USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, Colorado Field Office Crop Progress Report for April 1, “Eight percent of the winter wheat crop was reported being pastured this week, slightly above the five-year average of 7 percent. While Colorado continues to experience cold temperatures and below average precipitation, crop condition is rated mostly fair to very poor. Spring wheat was 9 percent seeded by week’s end compared to 14 percent on average with 1 percent emerged.”

Nationally, the amount of wheat that is expected to be planted is up. “All wheat planted area for 2013 is estimated at 56.4 million acres, up 1 percent from 2012. The 2013 winter wheat planted area, at 42.0 million acres, is 2 percent above last year and up slightly from the previous estimate. Of this total, about 28.9 million acres are Hard Red Winter, 9.67 million acres are Soft Red Winter, and 3.39 million acres are White Winter. Area planted to other spring wheat for 2013 is expected to total 12.7 million acres, up 3 percent from 2012. Of this total, about 12.1 million acres are Hard Red Spring wheat. The intended Durum planted area for 2013 is estimated at 1.75 million acres, down 18 percent from the previous year,” the projected plantings report stated.

Nationally, hay area harvested is expected to decrease. “Growers intend to plant an estimated 77.1 million acres in 2013, down slightly from last year but up 3 percent from 2011. Compared with last year, planted acreage intentions are down across all of the Great Plains, with the exception of North Dakota, as drought conditions have persisted in many of these areas. However, the net intended change from last year for the United States is only a loss of 72,000 acres as expected increases in planted area across most of the eastern Corn Belt and parts of the Southeast nearly balance out the declines in the Great Plains. If realized, the planted area in New York, North Dakota, and Pennsylvania will be the largest on record,” said the report.

In Colorado, this figure is expected to decrease by three percent, with 1.410 million acres planted.

According to the crop progress report for pasture and range, “Across the state, pasture and range feed conditions improved slightly, but remain rated mostly very poor to poor. Current conditions were rated 51 percent poor compared to 15 percent at this time in 2012.”

There are several other crops to be planted in Colorado that will see an increase this year. Sorghum planting was reported at 330,000 acres, which is 135 percent of last year. Oat planting is expected to be at 65,000 acres, 118 percent of what was planted last year.

Projected plantings for barley increased by three percent, with a reported 60,000 acres being planted. This is under the 2011 figure by 6,000 acres, however.

According to the crop progress report, “Spring barley was 15 percent seeded by the end of the week, behind the five-year average of 20 percent.”

Three other crops will see a decrease, however. Dry edible bean area planted was reported at 40,000 acres, 80 percent of what was planted in 2012. Sunflower planting for the state was reported at 75,000 acres, 27 percent down from the previous year. Sugarbeet planting area was reported at 29,100 acres, which is a 7 percent decrease compared to the 2012 year.

“Area planted to sugarbeets for the 2013 crop year is expected to total 1.21 million acres, down 2 percent from the 1.23 million acres planted in 2012. Planted area is expected to decrease from the previous year in six of the ten estimating states,” the planting report stated.

Moisture shortage is still an issue. “Rain and snow were seen in eastern parts of the state, bringing some relief to the dry conditions. Southern areas of the state experienced dry and breezy conditions, while producers continued fieldwork in preparation for irrigation season. Overall, mountain snowpack is 78 percent of average,” the crop progress report stated.

Other crops that are currently being planted include onions, and sugarbeets and potatoes will soon follow. “Onion growers made good planting progress, with 21 percent of the crop planted by week’s end, only slightly below the five year average of 26 percent. Producers have yet to make any measurable progress in planting sugarbeets and summer potatoes,” the Colorado Crop Progress report stated. ❖