Corn planting date: Implications of planting in May
In the prior posting on Farmgateblog you learned from two eminent corn production specialists that not having your corn planted does not make you naughty and destined for a time out in the corner of your machine shed.
In fact, corn that has been planted in a few Corn Belt fields is struggling to survive in the cold, wet soil. And once you get planting, some farmers may not stop, come darkness or even breakfast the next morning. Which makes one wonder about the impact of planting late.
Since “Plant#13” is not getting underway until about the first of May in most parts of the Corn Belt, that means several weeks of April, in which corn is typically planted, will be shifted to May. While that justifies the bigger planter to your lender and your spouse, it also indicates more corn will be planted later than usual.
That is the premise of University of Illinois economists Darrel Good and Scott Irwin.
Is “later than usual” an indicator of future problems this year?
While Purdue's Bob Nielsen and Emerson Nafziger of the University of Illinois tend to say no in the April 25 posting, Good and Irwin agree to some extend and say good yields can still be obtained based on prior years.
However, everyone agrees that yields do decline at an accelerating rate in the later part of May. And Good and Irwin rhetorically ask, “What is late, anyway?”
Their answer is: “We have quantified late planting as the percentage of the U.S. crop planted after May 30 in years prior to 1986 and after May 20 since 1986. That quantification balances the results of agronomic research and regional considerations and is used here.”
Looking at USDA data, they calculate that in the 42 years since 1971, about 15 percent of the corn crop was planted late, but varied widely depending on the season.
With only 4 percent of corn acreage planted by April 21, Good and Irwin say 81 percent of the crop needs to be planted before May 20 “when late planting begins.”
Your ability to attend that party depends on the weather, and weather windows have been getting narrower, as indicated by the Good and Irwin research. But after all that is why you have a bigger planter. Good and Irwin say their research shows that for Illinois (you will have to calculate your own state) about 50 percent of the days in the last 10 days of April and the first 20 days of May are suitable for field work.
At this point we are getting down to about a dozen days suitable for fieldwork before the arbitrary “late” flag is thrown.
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