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June 4, 2013

91% of U.S. Corn Planted, 8.7 Million Acres Yet to Plant

Corn planting - As of Sunday, 91% of the 2013 U.S. corn crop had been planted compared to 100% last year and 95% average. Therefore, there are still 8.7 million acres of corn to plant and that is not counting the acres that will now need to be replanted due to flooding and standing water. In the major production states, the number of corn acres remaining to be planted includes 1.7 million in Iowa, 1.17 million in Minnesota, 1.09 million in Illinois and 0.65 million in North Dakota.

Corn replanting - The number of acres that need to be replanted is difficult to estimate because they occur in smaller pounded areas, but certainly there will be hundreds of thousands of acres that will need to be replanted once it dries out. Small emerging corn plants are more likely to be killed by standing water than taller plants. If an emerging corn plant is under water for 72 hours, it will probably not survive. If it was under water for 24 or 48 hours, it is hit or miss if it will be killed or just stunted. Even if the plant is just stunted, it slows down the development of the plant and it can lead to additional problems later in the growing season.

Corn emergence - The corn emergence was 74% as of Sunday with 96% emerged last year and 82% average. Emergence can be slowed down by saturated conditions or by cold temperatures, both of which occurred in parts of the central and northwestern Corn Belt this past week.

Corn condition - The first condition rating of the growing season indicated that 2% of the crop was rated very poor, 5% poor, 30% fair, 52% good, and 11% excellent. I don't put much faith in the first few condition ratings of the growing season. These ratings are based on visual observations from afar. I am sure that some of the corn looks poor right now because it is pale yellow in color and slow growing. The color is pale yellow because the root zone is saturated with water which restricts root development. Once the soil dries out and oxygen returns to the root zone, the color of the crop will improve and the crop will look much better. Therefore, these first couple condition ratings should not be taken too seriously.

Additionally, this is an incomplete rating because only 74% of the corn has emerged. The 8.7 million acres of corn that have not been planted yet won't be rated for another week or two.

Corn prevent plant - In the major production areas, the earliest corn prevent plant date was May 31th (last Friday) and the latest corn prevent plant date is June 5th (Wednesday). There are a multitude of factors that a farmer must consider when deciding whether or not to claim prevent plant. I think the sequence may go something like this:

  • Continue to try to plant his intended corn acreage through the end of this week and take the 1% per day penalty in the insurance coverage. If possible, a farmer may try to switch to earlier maturity corn. If he already has fertilizer or chemicals down, he may try to plant his corn a little longer. If he has not put down any fertilizer, he may forgo corn planting a little sooner.
  • The decision will be impacted by how wet it is and how long the farmers thinks it would take to get into the fields. If only a few days of drying are needed to start planting, then I think they will wait and plant. If there is rainfall again this week and it will take an extended period of time to get into the fields, then they will not plant any more corn. I think very little corn will be planted after June 10th (next Monday), especially in the northwestern Corn Belt.
  • If it is still too wet to plant corn by the end of this week, they will probable forgo corn and switch to soybeans while there is still time to plant the soybeans before the prevent plant date for soybeans.
  • Take a partial payment for prevent plant corn, wait the 15-20 days required and then plant soybeans. Farmers will try to plant soybeans until about the end of June. That date comes sooner in the northern Corn Belt and later in the southern Corn Belt.

Even though taking prevent plant may make economic sense, some farmers will continue to try to plant past the prevent plant date even though it may be better to lodge an insurance claim. Farmers always like to plant something, that is just what they do. So sometimes the prevent plant decision is made on emotion rather than economics.