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April 13, 2016

U.S. Corn 4% Planted, Equal to Average Pace

In the first nationwide planted estimate, the U.S. corn crop is 4% planted compared to 1% last year and 4% average. Most of the planting of course has been in the southern areas where several states are ahead of the average pace such as: Missouri 24% planted (10% average), Kansas 17% (7% average), Arkansas 61% (51% average). Other states are still trying to catch up such as: Louisiana 73% planted (93% average), Mississippi 51% (63% average), and Texas 46% (52% average).

Very little corn has been planted in the Midwest and probably not much corn planting will be done until later this week. It looks like the weather will turn much more favorable starting later this week and continuing into next week. The cause of the slow planting thus far this spring has been the cold temperatures and not saturated or flooded conditions. Therefore, as soon as the temperatures warm up, the soil temperatures could warm up quickly as well.

Certainly farmers in the Midwest are in a better position this spring than the last two years when there was extensive flooding and wide areas of saturated soils. The dryer the soil, the easier it is to warm up the soil temperature. It generally takes a temperature of about 55°F at the four inch depth for corn to germinate.

Several weeks ago, it looked like we might have an extra early corn planting season this year, but that is no longer the case. I am still optimistic though that we could have a somewhat early planting. It would be considered an early planting if farmers planted 50% of their intended corn acreage before May 7th to May 10th. It would be considered a late planting if we reached 50% planted after those dates. Corn yields in the central Corn Belt generally don't start to decline until the corn is planted after about May 10th to May 15th.

In last week's report, I indicated that I thought the 93.6 million acres of corn indicated in the Prospective Plantings Report was overly optimistic and that the acreage might be in the range of 92 to 93 million acres. Now that we have been somewhat delayed in getting the corn planting started, I still feel that 93.6 million acres of corn is too optimistic. If the weather during the second half of April is conducive to rapid corn planting, I will stay with a corn acreage estimate in the range of 92 to 93 million acres. If it turns out to be a slower than normal planting, then I think we would end up closer to 92 than to 93 million acres.

I was asked several times last week what corn yield I would use to start off the season and I indicated that I would consider a corn yield of 163-164-165 to be realistic. There are several reason why I think we should start off with that yield range including: we should have somewhat average planting dates this spring, farmers might try to save a little on fertilizers and seed which could hold down the yield potential a little, there is developing dryness in the western Corn Belt which could led to dryer conditions this summer, and the long range forecast is calling for a transition to a La Nina with the possibility of hotter and dryer than normal conditions during the summer.

Speaking of dryer weather, the soil moistures in the western Corn Belt need to be watched going forward. The topsoil in Kansas is rated 60% short to very short, Nebraska is 33% short to very short, South Dakota is 29% short to very short, and North Dakota is 35% short to very short. Somewhat dryer soils during planting is considered beneficial for rapid field work. The concern is of the dryness continues to build as the summer approaches.

The long-term readers of my reports realize that I am always conservative in my estimates and I don't take extreme positions until those positions are justified by the facts on the ground. I generally move my estimates up or down slowly and incrementally. In fact, I would be the first to admit that I might adjust my estimates too slowly.

I say that because there already are estimates for very low corn yields this summer (low 150's bu/ac) based on the forecast for very adverse summer weather. It is possible that the weather might be adverse this summer, I don't know, but I will wait until the weather pattern is more certain before I make any adjustments in my estimates.