Corn planting progress way behind

Published on: May 3, 2013

CORN planting is behind schedule: According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the pace of seeding as of April 29 tied the slowest progress on record for that date, which was set in 1985.

Nationally, only 5% of all intended corn acreage was planted as of April 29, with Indiana, Illinois and Iowa having planted only 1-2% of their crop by the end of April. Comparatively, those three major corn-producing states had planted at least 44% by the same week in 2012, with Illinois farmers setting a blistering pace at 76%.

Compared with historical averages, April corn planting was well behind schedule, with a five-year national average pace of 31% planted. With cool, wet weather conditions prevalent across much of the Corn Belt, University of Illinois crop sciences professor Emerson Nafziger described April as the "second March" of the year.

"The corn that has been planted is struggling mightily to survive the soil conditions and to emerge," he observed. "If we are lucky enough to 'skip' another month and May begins to look more like a typical June, it's not too late to get the planting and crop back on track."

Note, however, the word "if."

Nafziger added that yield potential will start to decline as planting is pushed later and later into the month and will depend on weather patterns post-emergence. Weather and soil conditions, he said, are the largest barriers to getting a crop in the ground and will play the largest role in determining the size of the crop after planting.

With a drought-sapped crop fresh in the minds of farmers and end users, the chance of a late-planted crop failing to meet expectations — recall that, in January, USDA projected a record-large crop — has the market somewhat on edge and watching weather forecasts closely. However, just how concerned should market observers be at this point?

According to Ohio State University Extension corn production specialists Peter Thomison and Allen Geyer, long-term university research suggests an estimated yield loss of roughly 1% per day by the end of the month. A later-planted crop is at a higher risk for disease and insect pressure, as well as the stress of hot, dry conditions during the critical pollination period.

Counterintuitively, yield losses under delayed planting scenarios do not necessarily translate into lower average yields on a state-by-state basis.

Since 1980, Thomison found significant planting delays caused by wet spring weather in nine years; in each of those years, 40% or more of the crop remained unplanted by May 20.

Of those nine years, statewide yields in Ohio were significantly smaller than the average yield of the previous five years, while yields were similar or larger than the average in four of those years (Table).

It is worth noting that with delayed planting comes the potential for extreme yields. In 2002, for example, Ohio's average corn yield approached the record low of 86 bu. per acre set in 1988. In 2009, on the other hand, the state saw its largest average yield ever at 174 bu. per acre.

These data "indicate that lower grain yields are not a certainty with late plantings," Thomison concluded. "While delayed planting may cause yield loss relative to early planting, planting date is just one of many factors that influence corn yield."

He noted that farmers will need to take caution to avoid tillage and planting when soils are wet since yield reductions due to "mudding the seed in" are generally much greater than those from planting delays.

He also noted that switching to shorter-season seed maturities is not necessary unless planting is delayed past May 20, advice echoed by seed giant DuPont Pioneer.

Pioneer agronomy research manager Mark Jeschke explained that full-season hybrids typically outperform early-maturing hybrids, adjusting growth and development to reach maturity in a shortened growing season.

 

Performance (yield) of Ohio's "late"-planted corn crop

 

 

50%

 

Avg. yield of

Departure from

 

-% of crop planted by-

planting

Yield

prev. 5 years

yield trend

Year

May 20

May 30

date

-Bu./acre-

1981

30

55

May 26

96

108

-10

1983

45

65

May 22

80

109

-36

1989

22

40

June 4

118

116

0

1995

60

77

May 19

121

122

-15

1996

10

54

June 1

111

122

-15

2002

22

58

May 28

88

138

-56

2008

50

66

May 20

135

153

-7

2009

42

95

May 22

174

149

15

2011

10

19

June 5

158

156

6

Source: National Agricultural Statistics Service.

 

Volume:85 Issue:18