The Aftermath of Wet Spring: USDA Making Rare Adjustment to Corn Yield

Missouri Planting Conditions
USDA acknowledged this week what many farmers already knew: the historically wet spring is already eating away at corn yields. ( Farm Journal )

The U.S. Department of Agriculture confirmed on Tuesday what many farmers already knew: the extremely wet spring is already eating away at yield potential. Driving through the Corn Belt this year, it seemed no matter than soil type, not many acres were immune to the historically wet spring.

“It's the worst spring I’ve ever seen,” said Rob Korff, a farmer in Norborne, Mo.

Korff said every day this spring threw out a new curveball. With only two workable days during the month of May, and only a two-week window in April to not only spray and apply fertilizer, but plant what they could, the 2019 planting season continues to strain producers.

“We've been so wet all winter and spring where everyone was behind struggling to get on anhydrous, and fertilizer was a struggle and then getting the crop when conditions weren't the best,” he said. “Then, we got the monsoon of rain with one of the wettest Mays on record, and now stands are uneven. Every little low spot showed up. Then a ton of replant in this area with farmers spotting in corn, some tearing up corn. There's people still replanting corn today here on June 11th.”

He said planting conditions weren’t just less than ideal; conditions were horrid, which could have a negative impact on yield.

USDA acknowledged those struggles in its latest report released Tuesday. The agency pegged yield for the 2019 crop at 166 bushels per acre. Crop production is forecast to decline 1.4 billion bushels to 13.7 billion. For Korff, trimming the yield may be just a start as the extreme variability in fields mean a final average yield even on his farm will be hard to forecast.

“It's extremely variable,” he said. “The field to my left, I replanted a bunch of holes in this field the other day and now I have replant corn spiking through the ground right next to corn a foot tall or taller. “It's going to be a screwed-up harvest, too. We’ll have wet corn and dry corn. I don't know how this year will end up.”

For Korff, the best-case scenario for yield at this point hinges on weather over the next two months.

“Typically the field like this, I’d expect it to yield in the 170 to 190 (bushel per acre) range, and this year, I'd be lucky if I could average 140 I think right now; that’s if we have decent weather the rest of growing season, which is always up in the air in Missouri,” he said. “But if the corn rallies, you don't need as many bushels to make up the difference. And soybeans are just too cheap to put beans out there really.”

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