Corn planting slowest since 1984

Published on: May 7, 2013

As expected, farmers got very little fieldwork done last week, relatively speaking. With cold, wet weather continuing to plague many productive regions of the country, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that only 12% of expected corn acreage was planted as of May 5, compared with a 5-year average pace of 47% and the whopping 69% planted by the same point in 2012.

USDA's National Agriculture Statistics Service released its weekly Crop Progress report Monday evening, showing that most states are well behind schedule at getting corn in the ground. No more than 8% of the crop has been planted in each of the three "I states," key corn producing regions.

Not surprisingly, emergence is off schedule as well. Only 3% of the crop had emerged as of Sunday's data gathering, compared with 29% last year and 15% on average.

Beyond the static comparison of planting completion, Allendale's Paul Georgy noted that farmers typically advance planting progress by 18 percentage points for the week ending May 5, compared to just 7 percentage points gained this week. The late pace of planting has market watchers contemplating Friday's World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates from USDA, wondering if the Department will lower its yield projections based on this year's delayed seeding.

The slowest pace of planting on record for this point in the season was 1984, when farmers had planted only 10% of the crop. Georgy pointed out that yield that year was only slight smaller than trend suggested; his firm thinks USDA could drop their yield forecast this month from a 163.5 bushels per acre weather-adjusted trend to as small as 159.4 bu. per acre.

Farm Futures senior editor Bryce Knorr said Tuesday that much of the Corn Belt north of I-80 is expected to see only light precipitation out of the current weather system, though parts of Illinois could get as much as an inch of rain.

"Official 6- to 10 and 8- to 14-day forecasts out yesterday showed warmer and drier conditions for the central Corn Belt, but overnight maps, including the European model, trended wetter for this week's storm," Knorr wrote. "The latest American model downplayed potential for substantial rains in the second week of the forecast, keeping the outlook uncertain."

With only 2% of the nation's anticipated soybean acreage and 23% of expected spring wheat acreage planted as of last week, farmers will be working diligently to get a crop in the ground between weather systems. In the meanwhile, all eyes will be on USDA come High Noon this Friday.