May 2, 2012

U.S. Corn Planting at 53% and Soybean Planting at 12%

Farmers have planted 53% of the 2012 corn crop compared to the average of 27% and 15% of the corn has emerged compared to an average of 6%. These percentages are ahead of average, but I think the emergence percentage is more important because that is when the crop actually starts the growing season. The recent cooler temperatures in the eastern Corn Belt have slowed the emergence and stand establishment somewhat, but the 2012 U.S. corn crop is still at least a week ahead of the normal pace. That is still good of course, but it's not quite as good as we once thought it would be.

The soybean crop is 12% planted compared to an average of 5%. It's always good to get the soybean crop started as early as possible, but early planting for soybeans is not as important as it is for corn. As long as the majority of the soybean crop gets planted basically during the month of May, it's the weather later in the summer that will determine the yield of the crop.

There is a lot of speculation about the potential acreage of this year's crops. Certainly with these high prices, farmers are going to do everything possible to plant the maximum acreage this spring. I think the "acreage pie" is going to increase by 2-3 million acres this year through a combination of factors including: more double crop soybeans because the wheat is going to harvested earlier than normal, plowing up wheat that was impacted by repeated frosts, planting slews and other traditionally wet areas in the northwestern Corn Belt, conversion of some hay and pasture to row crop production, cleaning out old fence rows (although there are not that many left), and planting of previous CRP acres to row crops. I am sure there are other sources of additional acres, but the point is that these prices are going to encourage the maximum acreage possible.

Additionally, the way it looks thus far, there may also be a higher than normal percentage of the planted acreage that goes on to be harvested. We usually get some lost acreage in the spring due to flooding, ponding, or saturated soils. That still could happen of course, but this may be the year that we see a higher than normal percentage of the planted acreage being harvested.

At the present time, I think soybeans will be the main beneficiary of the majority of the increased planting primarily due to the increase in double crop acreage. The soybean acreage reported in the March Planting Intension Report (73.9 million acres) will probably be the low number of the growing season and the soybean acreage could increase two million acres or more from that number.