Slow planting progress may reduce 2013 corn acreage
As of May 5, an estimated 12 percent of this year’s corn crop had been planted, at a point in the season when the share of the crop planted is typically near 50 percent. Planting progress is below the 5-year average in all of the 18 states reported in the weekly Crop Progress report, but progress is close to average in Pennsylvania and North Carolina. The very slow pace of planting has everyone wondering if acreage will actually reach the 97+ million acres farmers said they would plant and if yield potential is being adversely affected.
In this article we look at past years to get some idea of farmers’ ability to catch up on corn planting if the weather improves. Weather forecasts indicate a dry period over much of the Midwest this weekend and early next week. But farmers have a lot of catching up to do and even with the bigger planting equipment, there is no real doubt that some of the crop will be planted after the optimum period is over. Since corn farmers intended to plant more than 97 million acres this year, the progress this year implies about 12 million acres had been planted as of last Sunday versus about 42 million acres at this point during the last five years.
The slow pace of planting progress this year is unprecedented, at least based on data for the last 29 years. The previous low for this point in the year is 9 percent planted back in 1984. In 2008 and 2011, recent years with slow planting progress in early May, the share planted stood at 30 percent and 28 percent, respectively. Despite the delayed early planting, actual acreage came in very close to intentions in both of those years. In fact, the biggest negative deviation from intentions in the last 18 years came in 1995 (4 million acres). As discussed in last week’s AgInsight, corn production would still be near 14 billion bushels with 93 million acres planted and a trend yield of 163 bushels per acre.
click image to zoom The end of the optimum planting period varies by state and region, but corn planted after May 20 would be considered late in most of the country. However, the end of the optimum planting period does not mean that producers stop planting corn. Farmers were still planting corn in the first week of June in 2008, 2009 and 2011. In those three years 25 percent to 30 percent of the crop was still to be planted after May 20th.
How fast can farmers plant corn if the weather improves? There are reports of farmers in some states planting as much as half their acreage in a single week, but there are no examples of that happening on a national level. The largest week-to-week change in the share of the crop planted was 37 points back in the first week in May of 1992. Even with the spread of larger planting equipment, the largest week-to-week change in the last 5 years is 25 percentage points. This happened the first week in May in 2011. The largest week-to-week change for this second week in May was 21 points in 2008.
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