WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. — U.S. corn plantings continue to be far off course, with only 58% of the crop planted as of the week ended May 26 compared to 90% planted a year ago, according to the latest Crop Progress report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Cool weather, rain and flooding have made it nearly impossible for farmers in a large portion of the U.S. Corn Belt to make it into the field. The result could be significantly lower overall yields and reduced quality.
“Acreage will be down, yields will be down but beyond that the debate will continue throughout the summer,” said Arlan Suderman, chief commodities economist with FCStone. “There’s potential for both to be down significantly, so that’s what the markets are responding to. Soybeans have a much bigger margin for error, I anticipate the market will recognize that at some point. Corn doesn’t so the market has begun the rationing process.”
One likely scenario is a 4-million acre reduction, he said, but it’s possible to still see just a 2-million acre reduction or as much as a 10-million acre reduction. Suderman estimated yields at 170 bushels per acre, but with ideal growing conditions it could reach 174 bushels, or drop to as low as 158.4 bushels.
He said the numbers literally change daily as more information becomes available.
“I’ve never seen the challenges for getting the corn crop planted that we have this year,” said Suderman, who is nearly 60 and has been involved in agriculture his whole life.
According to the USDA data released on May 28, plantings are also down from the five-year average of 90%. The data includes the 18 states that accounted for 92% of last year’s corn crop.
Illinois, Indiana, South Dakota and Ohio are lagging significantly. Illinois only has 35% planted compared to 99% last year; Indiana has 22% planted compared to 94% a year ago; Ohio is at 22% compared to 80% last year; and South Dakota is at 25% compared to 87% a year ago.
Iowa is the standout exception, with 76% of the crop planted. It is still down from 95% last year and the five-year average of 96%.
Soybeans are also down, with only 29% of the crop planted compared to 74% last year and a five-year average of 66%. Data for soybeans is from the 18 states that accounted for 95% of last year’s soybean crop. Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Iowa, Ohio and South Dakota are some of the farthest behind when compared to last year.
Suderman estimated soybean acreage at 84.6 million but it could go as high as 86 million or could drop by 8 million acres.
“That’s the spectrum,” he said. “We will see fewer double crop soybean acres and we could see some corn go into soybeans. Some of the areas that were able to plant early because it was dry enough turned in their soybean seeds for corn.
“Soybeans could have the biggest potential either way because of the wider planting window.”
Suderman estimated yields of 49.1 bushels per acre with an outside chance of 51.5 bushels or a 10% reduction down to 44.6 bushels.
Switching acres from corn to soybeans isn’t simple because if nitrogen and herbicides already have been applied, it could impact soybean germination, emergence and nodulation, according to the Iowa State University (ISU) Extension and Outreach.
AccuWeather is forecasting another wet week for the Midwest, but some drier weather could be on the way.
“But the first week in June looks like 70% of the Corn Belt may be dry for five or six days — and farmers haven’t seen anything like that so far this year,” said AccuWeather senior meteorologist Jason Nicholls.
Farmers are running up to deadlines for crop insurance and cut offs for strong yields. June 1-25 is considered the late planting period for corn and June 16-July 10 for soybeans. Crop insurance coverage for late planting drops by 1% per day, down to 55% of coverage for corn and 60% for soybeans, according to ISU Extension.
Planting after June 1 can result in a loss of yield of 50 bushels per acre, ISU Extension said. In Iowa, which is doing better than most states with 76% planted, historical data shows that if at least 50% of the crop is planted by May 15, the chance for high yield still exists, ISU Extension said.
Wet weather could also impact the winter wheat crop in the Plains and the Midwest, with many areas in the central portion of the United States recording 200% to 300% of normal rainfall over the past month, said Kyle Tapley, senior agricultural meteorologist with Maxar.
“The excessive wetness across the central Plains and much of the Midwest will increase the threat for disease and may also reduce the quality of the winter wheat crop,” he said.
Winter wheat crop ratings have been very high up until this week when they took a downturn, Suderman said. In the past, a wet May followed by a wet June has resulted in below trend yields for wheat.
“The wetness, as the temperatures warm up, favors disease,” he said. “I’m surprised we’ve not seen more signs of disease at this point. It could be that temperatures have been relatively cool, which has suppressed disease development.”
ISU Extension said delayed planting will result in later crop maturity and increased risk of fall frost damage. However, warmer-than-normal temperatures could speed corn development.
With late planted corn, higher grain moisture is likely at the time of harvest, ISU Extension said, because of shorter days and lower air temperatures.
ISU Extension agronomists and farm management specialists hosted a webinar on May 24 addressing some of the issues farmers will face with delayed planting. A slideshow of the presentation is available by clicking here.