Corn planting now 71% complete

Published on: May 20, 2013

Farmers planted an astounding 43% of the nation’s corn crop during the week ending May 19, getting nearly three-quarters of intended acreage planted. After being woefully behind schedule through mid-May, farmers are now only eight percentage points behind the 5-year average pace.

“Corn and spring wheat planting were higher than trade expectations at 71% and 67%, respectively, while soybean planting at 24% came in as expected,” said Rice Dairy senior feedgrains analyst Jerry Gidel. “The northern states’ and Iowa’s progress were a big surprise.”

Iowa farmers, in fact, planted a whopping 56% of the state’s expected corn acreage as of Sunday evening, matching the national percentage of 71%, while Minnesota and the Dakotas each ranged from 60-75% planted. Wisconsin, at 43%, is the farthest behind of the 18 major corn-producing states tracked by U.S. Department of Agriculture in its weekly Crop Progress report.

“Farmers have the technology and the drive to accomplish more in a week than we could have in three only a few decades ago,” said National Corn Growers Association president Pam Johnson, a grower in Iowa. “Last week, we knew that we needed a week of drier, warmer weather and, throughout much of the Corn Belt, we got just that. Taking shifts and working together, our nation's family farmers will get the crop planted and work just as tirelessly through harvest to make sure that we provide the food, feed and fuel America needs.”

According to noted market analyst Arlan Suderman with Water Street Solutions in Peoria, Ill., planting 43% of the nation's crop in one week matches the previous record advancement, set in 1992. Farmers planted far fewer acres of corn in 1992, however: data from USDA's Economic Research Service shows just 79.31 million acres seed that year, compared with an expected 97.28 million for 2013.

In other words, farmers planted somewhere around 41.8 million acres of corn last week, compared with just 34.1 million during the same week in 1992.

Emergence, not surprisingly, is still well behind schedule. Just 19% of the crop had emerged as of the 19th, compared with a 5-year average of 46%. With planting progress advancing so rapidly last week, next week’s emergence number will likely change dramatically as well.

For spring wheat, planting progress moved swiftly last week along with corn. Farmers planted nearly a quarter of the crop in seven days’ time, hitting 67% complete as of May 19, compared with the 5-year pace of 76% for the week. Emergence hit 22%, compared with the 49% average.

With so much corn and wheat getting planted in such a short window, traders are now likely to assume that fewer acres will be “switched” over to soybeans. Twenty-four percent of the nation’s expected soybean acres were planted as of May 19, off the 42% 5-year average, but fairly close to traders’ pre-report estimates.

Only 3% of the soybean crop is now emerged, but farmers’ attention will shift more to soybeans once the corn planting push is completed.

Winter wheat condition remains a key area of concern, particularly as global competitors including countries in the Former Soviet Union appear poised to reap record harvests. Only 31% of the U.S. crop was rated “good to excellent” in the most recent report, with 43% of the crop now headed.