An interesting Ag Report

This is a weekly report, so any one week, it will be different from right now. This one shows some cool soils, but I think they are a bit optimistic…(it does say “preliminary data”) and the ‘records’ part says a whole lot of precipitation records with some snow records in the North West. They show high temp records over the SouthWest AND California where I am. As I was just chased off the patio by the cold, and I’ve not started a garden as it’s just not been like it was (hot in May, good to go in April…) I’m very skeptical of those hot records… This year has NOT been hot. Not even near it. (See page 9).

For most significant crops, they have an entry like this (from Page 13… yeah, it had to be page 13…):

Other Small Grains: By May 5, oat producers had sown
57 percent of the nation’s crop, 36 percentage points behind
last year and 19 points behind the 5-year average. Seeding in
Minnesota and North Dakota advanced 8 percentage points, as
producers maximized a limited number of days suitable for
fieldwork during the week. Nationally, 39 percent of the oat
crop had emerged by week’s end, 36 percentage points behind
last year and 17 points behind the 5-year average.

That’s Oats… that are a cold season crop… If the oats are behind, we’re in trouble. (They sprout as cold a 4 C so just a ways above frozen…)

I’ve not had time to read the whole thing, but what I’m seeing is “not good”.

Corn: By May 5, producers had planted 12 percent of this
year’s corn crop, 57 percentage points behind last year and
35 points behind the 5-year average. Despite increased
fieldwork throughout much of the major corn-producing
region, overall planting progress continued at the slowest pace
since 1984. In Iowa, producers took advantage of warmer
early-week weather and planted 6 percent of their crop before
cold, snowy weather forced them out of their fields toward
week’s end. Nationally, emergence advanced to 3 percent by
May 5, twenty-six percentage points behind last year and
12 points behind the 5-year average. This represents the
slowest emergence pace on since records began in 1999.

By page 37 they get to Canada:

Cool, damp weather slowed planting of spring grains and
oilseeds, as well as the green up of winter wheat and pastures.
Over the past few weeks, the unusually late melting of snow
across northern and eastern agricultural districts has resulted in
wet fields and flooding; as of May 4, snow still covered the
ground in some farming areas of Manitoba and eastern
Saskatchewan. This week, temperatures averaged 2 to 5°C
below normal across the Prairies, with nighttime lows falling
well below -5°C in most areas. Precipitation was generally
scattered and light, though amounts exceeded 10 mm (liquid
equivalent) in parts of Manitoba and southeastern
Saskatchewan. Warmer, drier weather is needed to help dry
fields and melt the remaining snow cover to avoid significant
planting delays.

Doesn’t sound like “Global Warming” much, now does it?…

The graph on page 38 is downright frightening. Shows 2013 as way slow and low (below all other years graphed) on corn planting. 1995 to now, or 18 years.

I’ve saved a copy of this one (and the one from 30 April 2013) and may start looking at this more regularly.

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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19 Responses to An interesting Ag Report

  1. Judy F. says:

    I know that planting is quite delayed here in NE Colorado. In my immediate area we grow mostly hard red winter wheat, with a smattering of dryland corn, sunflowers and millet. The wheat, of course, went in last fall, but it is late developing and has some “issues” relating to our very dry winter. We also had a hard late freeze, which didn’t affect the wheat heads ( which aren’t developed yet) but the leaves showed some freeze damage. The perenniels in my flower beds are just barely poking their heads up. Many years we have lilacs for Memorial Day, but the buds are just barely swelling on the plants. My Canada Red Cherry tree is the only tree or shrub in my yard with any sort of green growth at all.

    I should quit reading EM’s columns late at night, because I was curious as to what our ground temperature was. We had a sprinkle of rain go through several hours ago, and it is a very mild night at 11:30 pm tonight at 50 degrees F. It only got up to 70F today, so the night warmth is unusual. I took my flashlight and went outside to take readings at various places in the yard. I used an instant read thermometer and the bare ground temperature was about 56 degrees F at about 2.5 inches deep and 60F at about 5 inches deep. That really surprised me, because I would have guessed the ground temperature to be lower than that. We are still having regular frosts and I am still going to wait a while before I plant anything in my garden. Our average last frost date is May 10 and our average first frost date is October 10.

    I live in a part of the country that is not suited to making a lot of changes as far as to what kind of crops will grow here. Our average moisture per year is 14-16 inches. Last year we had just over 8 inches, so about half. There is virtually no irrigation where I live, but there is irrigation in the South Platte river area, as well as deep water wells farther east of me. We have very low humidity and lots of wind. Although the USDA map has us in growing zone 5, I figure that trees and shrubs are “iffy” unless they are zone 4. We can grow corn with irrigation, but are unable to grow soybeans because of low humidity. We can grow wheat and millet and have natural short grass prairie pastures. The big threat to getting in a crop is summer hailstorms: the White Combine. In the early 90’s we were hailed out on most of our fields for 5 years in a row. ( Hail can be very spotty, so the northern half of a field would be hailed off, but the southern half could be salvaged, with a little damage). Home gardens are wiped out too. I have seen it hail so hard that the hair is stripped off cows out in the pastures.

    If we start having late freezes in the spring and early frosts in the fall, life might get really hard here on the High Plains. :)

  2. E.M.Smith says:

    @Judy F:

    Look into buckwheat. There are some kinds in California that are wild and grow in desert conditions, and don’t mind at all poor soil. (Used to recover ‘mine tailings’… if that gives an idea…) Some have harvest in something like 60 days of not very warm weather… It can be better than nothing.

    IIRC there’s some dry land sorghum too (though millet beats ’em all for low water demand – but isn’t as fast as buckwheat.)

    Somehow I think a whole lot of folks are going to be brushing up on cold tolerant fast growth varieties and species… Wonder if anyone has records of what they grew in 1810-1830 ? (bracketing “1800 and froze to death”…)

  3. craigm350 says:

    Reblogged this on CraigM350 and commented:
    Thanks for posting. Saw some shocking US agriculture figures in a trade website last week, guess they pulled the stats from this report.

    Not a great picture in the UK either. The Mediterranean crops we are supposed to grow and still being advised to. The Guardian yesterday

    I switched to hardier crops for the harden a couple of years ago and grow a wide variety. It didn’t help much last year as mould/lack of pollination from excess wet was a big problem. This year has been dry creating it’s own issues somewhat similar to the 1880s with wild swings in temps and precipitation but noted for the Late Victorian Dry Phase.

  4. Gail Combs says:

    Good, I am glad you took a look at the report. For soil temperature try sticking a thermometer in the soil in your garden area and giving us a reading. It wiould be interesting to have readings around the USA/Northern Hemisphere.

    Here is a bit of advice on planting that explains why few crops are planted.

    …Determining if your soil is workable involves getting a little dirty. Dig down a few inches in your garden and pick up a handful of soil and squeeze it into a ball. Now poke it with your fingers or a small tool. If it breaks apart readily, the soil is dry enough to dig in. If it stays in a ball or doesn’t give to pressure easily, wait a couple of weeks and try again. Clay soils characteristically will take longer to dry out than other soils….

    If I recall correctly it has been a tad bit soggy for the last three weeks and a bit cool on the days the sun was shining, and that was in the souther portions of the country.

    The article goes on to SOIL TEMPERATURE:

    ….To measure soil temperature, insert a soil thermometer about six inches into a garden bed. This is the root depth of the plant; surface temperatures will always be a few degrees warmer. A regular rectangular outdoor thermometer can be used.

    Different areas of the garden will have different soil temperatures. Raised beds will always warm up quicker than regular in-ground beds. In an experiment in my own garden last week, the regular soil measured 35 degrees while my raised beds were 42 degrees. This is a big difference to a seed.

    Soil within 3 or 4 feet of south facing buildings, fences, garden walls or other garden features that soak up heat will be warmer than soil further away from the heat sink. South facing slopes in full sun will always be warmer because the angle of the sun hits them more directly….

  5. P.G.Sharrow says:

    @EMSmith: You are so right about the planting delay in the American breadbasket. This will cause quite a reduction in total grain production. Being 2 weeks late can cause 10% reduction. 4 weeks 25%! A major change in planting varieties is not possible due to seed availability. Planting 400 acres requires 20 tons of seed that must be planned for long in advanced. Not something that can be done by many farmers at the same time.
    Here in the Chico foothills it has been a early warm spring. The northstate is already starting fire season. A warm Central Valley really sucks for the Bay Area. We get cooling Delta breezes and you get San Francisco COLD air off the ocean. Our Hot summers gives you guys hypothermia! Looks to me that an Ice Age eastern America will create a warm west coast due to a weakened cold ocean current. The Great Basin will become farming country due to increased Monsoon from the southwest. Maybe the Mormons made the right choice in Deseret, just 200 years early. pg

  6. Gail Combs says:

    P.G.Sharrow says….
    You are correct. It takes a while to build up seed stock for a variety change. Year before last NC had a dry fall just after many farmers planted Abrussi Rye and the seed sprouted. The dryness killed the seedlings so more rye was planted (if you could get the seed), sprouted and it too died. By the latter part of September (when I normally plant) all the available seed stock was gone. I ended up with Passerel a ryegrass (not a cereal rye) instead. It wasn’t something I would go back to although it seems to be ‘volunteering’ this spring and the livestock are not really happy about eating it. (The vounteers may be Italian ryegrass)

    NOTE: I may not have given the Passerel a fair trial since that winter was not exactly the best for growing anything.

  7. E.M.Smith says:


    Do you know of any similar report for the UK or EU? (or anywhere else in the world for that matter…)

    @Gail: it was that effect of south facing slopes and south walls and all that got me very skeptical of some of the thermometer readings when I saw their locations. I just knew they were in a warm spot, as that was where I’d look to plant things…

    Don’t know if I have a suitable thermometer for measuring the soil. The one I have that would be best is my photography one, and I’m not sure I want to stick an expensive (and likely no longer made) precision ‘near room temperature’ thermometer into the dirt… (It has a little groove around the end that would be a bear to clean…) I have some LIG but the glass is mounted to a “paper” backing with markings and I’m not sure how moisture proof they are… then again, I have a dozen (bought in a kit at the school supply store for fairly cheap…) I’ll see what I can do…

    My “problem” here has been more one of “Sloth coupled with: That’s Interesting…” I’ve got some kale I planted a couple of years back and was wondering how long it would live. Figured 2 years as a biannual. Well, this is year 3 and it’s not dead yet… setting seed (again…) So now I’m curious. I figure 2 more years max and I’m going to replant… that’s 3 squares… I’ve also got a square of volunteer parsnips (they seem happy to naturalize) and a square of potatoes that has been naturalized under Bermuda grass for 4 (or more?) years now…

    At some point I’m supposed to lift those spuds and “reward” them with a clean square, but they only ‘remind’ me when they’ve freshly sprouted and then it’s too late ;-) (Why I need a henge ;-)

    I’m trying to select for types that “grow a garden without me” and to some extent it is a success, but then I don’t get all the usual seasonal vegetables.

    So I’m more “playing researcher” than “doing production”… and one square at a time they have moved from “making food” to “well that’s interesting… (One of them now has a Clove tree growing in it. Had some old cloves. Tossed them in the square when it was going winter fallow. a couple spouted and grew… looks like cloves can be grown in California… At first I was just wondering if they would sprout, then “would they be frost killed”, now it’s “will I get cloves?” and crushing a leave smells like cloves, so it’s not just some weed…) Ah well, such is the life of the “more curious than hungry…”

    Another has an avocado tree (now about 4 years old) in it. Bacon type. From seed. Neighbor had a tree, we got free avocados. I planted one to see how it would do from seed. Neighbor took their tree out. Now I’m thinking “maybe this is my future avocado source?”. As we are very marginal for avocados, having one that is known to work here in the cool is a ‘big deal’.

    Oh, and another square has Runner Beans in it that resprout from the roots if you don’t rip them out. It looks to be regrowing for the 3rd? year in a row. Then there’s the chayote that I planted near the fence. Last year (it’s 2nd year?) it made 4 fruits. Fully mature they can cover 40 foot of fence and make 400 fruits.

    At any rate, it’s a bit of a mess now with “just growed” planning in evidence… OTOH, I’ve not planted a garden and I’ve got kale, spuds, chayote, parsnips, runner beans and some more all growing… Now if only I had some kudzu for greens ;-)


    It’s not just America and not just the breadbasket. From California and Oregon to Colorado and Florida folks are having issues. Canada too. The international part of the report was a bit thin… but looked like some issues there as well. (Though some benefit – Russia looked like it had some benefit).

    But yes, that’s why I have a personal seed bank with all of hot and cold varieties and wet and dry adapted. Along with a food storage closet, it ought to be enough to keep the family fed if things go crappy. (The tepary beans will even grow here without added water – THE big hole in my ‘system’ is that I depend on city water… so Tepary beans & Millet would likely grow even in hot and dry and no irrigation… as long as I like “potted finch & sparrow”… who tend to get my ‘small grains’ when I’ve tried them…

    On a national scale, it could take 1/2 a decade to swap over. If folks are bright, it’s only the far edge that has a problem and the rest of the seeds just shift south (so canola and oats move to where corn was, and corn moves into sorghum and sugarcane areas…) but generally folks don’t work that way. They sell into an area. And inventory in that area. IIRC the process from founder stock to production seed growout can take 3 or 4 years; so a big “jump” in demand for barley or oats seeds could take that long to ramp up. (Founder stock used to grow seed for ‘seed production’, that gets multiplied the next year, that gets production grow the next that is then sold for the following planting year…)

    That “seed brittleness” has gotten much worse with the move to Agribusiness and monoculture. The family farm of the 1930s and 40s had several crops, and if one failed, they would expand the other the very next year. Often they had a stock of buckwheat groats for a ‘catch crop’ if the main crop failed. Now hardly anyone does that. They just collect the crop insurance money and plan the corn for next year. That substitution of financial instruments for production methods and inventory management is going to get some folks killed when a real “aw shit” happens. (I’d rather have buckwheat cakes to eat than paper crop insurance…) They also had the equipment to handle the different crops. Now we have a few hundred (thousand?) miles on a side of nothing but corn equipment or nothing but wheat equipment. Yeah, some of it can be converted / reset… but some can’t.

    I have a real worry about just how “economies of scale and monoculture” driven production farming has become and how much robustness and flexibility has been lost.

  8. Gail Combs says:

    “…I have a real worry about just how “economies of scale and monoculture” driven production farming has become and how much robustness and flexibility has been lost….”

    That is my big worry too. Monoculture with GMO seed is not good for a shifting climate.

    …Purdue University animal sciences professor Bill Muir was part of an international research team that analyzed the genetic lines of commercial chickens used to produce meat and eggs around the world. Researchers found that commercial birds are missing more than half of the genetic diversity native to the species, possibly leaving them vulnerable to new diseases and raising questions about their long-term sustainability….

    That is the reason my goat and sheep herds are mutts. I have genetics from several different breeds and my rams and bucks are never the same breed twice. I am looking for hardiness not show stock or ‘fast growth’ I also try to stay with heritage type breeds.

    Small farms that multi-crop can actually produce more food per acre that the big monoculture industrial farms and they are not as vulnerable.

    Unfortunately the UN has it half right and wraps truth around the Big Lie.

  9. craigm350 says:

    Eye wateringly bad by the looks of it!

    The first report from the UK has wheat at 2% GS32 vs the standard 25-40%

    This has some link for the rest of the world which I’ve not delved into yet

    This is US again and prob covers the Ag report you highlighted

    Not good with no major uptick in sight. Joe B earlier on twitter:

    GFS has HISTORIC late season cold shot on it. Tho I think overdone by a few degrees, would still cause millions in damage to fruit/veg

  10. E.M.Smith says:


    Thanks! It will make for useful sources, even if the “answer” is a bit dismal…

    Guess we are going to find out how close to the edge the world is standing on food production.

    I think I might go buy a 50 pound bag of beans and one of rice this weekend… (100 person / days of emergency rations for under $100 ).

    I already have a load of sugar, salt, flower, in jars and a hundred pounds or so of wheat in gallon cans… among other things.

  11. Tom says:

    Try the inexpensive Taylor Classic Instant-Read Pocket Thermometer found in many automotive parts stores and Amazon. Construction is a stainless steel spike with dial gauge indicator; and, my results checking temps of a nitrate boosted compost were 15 second temp stability with no corrosion issues.

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  13. gary turner says:

    ” Now if only I had some kudzu for greens ;-) ”

    Now, here in the South, including eastern Texas, we’d prefer poke weed to kudzu. If you’re set on kudzu, though, you should know the proper way to plant it.

    At a little past midnight on a moonless night, place a single seed on the painted stripe down the center of an asphalt road. Then run like hell. By planting on the paint stripe on asphalt, you hope to slow the growth enough that the vines don’t entangle your legs and bury you before you can get away. By planting in the wee hours of a moonless night, you hope your neighbors don’t see you, and having seen you, shoot you dead.

    cheers :-)

  14. E.M.Smith says:

    @Gary Turner:

    Kudzu is illegal in California… I can’t imagine why ;-)

    (Survivors of the planting attempt will be wrested from the Kudzu after it has been subdued with flame throwers. The survivor will be persecuted prosecuted and incarcerated until their wounds heal enough to be handed over the “the neighbors” ;-)

    So I’m not going to get any kudzu… it was more a ‘wishful thinking’ note about self perpetuating large food producing plants…

  15. P.G.Sharrow says:

    I am working on a purple potato that you plant and ignore. It grows until frost or drought kills the plant and regrows from the tuber, Em, a wild potato. Just dig when hungry. Production is not great, commercial potatoes can produce over 600 hundred weight per acre. I doubt these would do even a tenth of this. But once planted they are hard to get rid of. And the seed is viable as well. Very tasty treat as well as they not as starchy as commercial potatoes, more meaty and the interior is blue is well. pg

  16. E.M.Smith says:

    @P.G.: Sounds like we’re doing some of the same thing… I’m fond of the purple guys too. So have some “ignored” in a pot. Basically, I’ve put several kinds out, and the seed comes from whatever is ornery enough to survive ;-)

    Maybe at the end of season I’ll actually dig them up and see what I’ve got. If anything looks interesting, I’ll let you know. I’ve got viable seed. Just don’t know yet if it stays “true to type” or like apples gives a rainbow of divergence…

  17. P.G.Sharrow says:

    Interesting side note; the potato blooms at the same time it makes tubers in the ground and the bloom color is a good indicator of the tuber coloring.
    Seedlings seem to look like nightshade and are not as vigorous as tuber shoots. So it takes several generations of tuber starts to get strong shoots and large tubers. pg

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  19. M Simon says:

    Linked at:

    BTW Rockford has had the rainiest six months (Jan to June) since 1913.

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