Don’t judge, I like window seats in a plane this time of the year, not because of amazing views or anything like that. But it really is the cheapest way to view from a distance whether there is progress in the fields in terms of planting. So yesterday afternoon on my way from Cape Town to Johannesburg I did just that – window seat.

Along the way, specifically over the Free State and Gauteng, I was pleased to see brown soils, which means the 2018/19 summer crop planting season is slowly gaining momentum. The feedback from conversations with farmers from Mpumalanga areas over the weekend was also encouraging, suggesting that summer crop planting is also gaining momentum.

To a certain extent, this was unsurprising for two reasons. First, South Africa has had a few well-timed rain events this month that have lifted topsoil moisture for early summer crop planting  (chart below). Hence encouraging fieldwork in most areas.


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South Africa’s soil moisture
Source: World Weather Inc


Second, the optimal planting window for maize (chart below) and soybean opened at the beginning of this month in the eastern parts of the country. So, planting is anyway supposed to be gaining ground at this time of the year. Remember, the eastern and central regions of South Africa largely produce yellow maize and soybeans – so these are particularly the crops I am talking about.

Sunflower seed and white maize are predominantly planted in the western regions of South Africa and the optimal planting window will open for these crops around mid-November all the way towards the end of December.

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South Africa’s maize optimal planting dates
Source: Grain SA, Agbiz Research


Oh, on Thursday, we will have a better idea of the planned area for South Africa’s 2018/19 summer grain and oilseed when the National Crop Estimate Committee releases its monthly data.

Above all, while South Africa has had a good start of the season, the medium-term weather forecasts – from February 2019 onwards – is still concerning. It points to a possibility of drier weather conditions, which is underpinned by the forecast El Niño.

But, let me not mess up an optimistic blog post. The medium-term weather outlook and its implication on crops is a topic for another day.

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