Once upon a time corn experts said you lost yield potential if you planted after May 20. Then it became May 15. Recently, the magic date has moved to May 10, although some insist that anytime after May 1, odds favor somewhat of a reduction in corn yield compared to original potential. Corn yield can still be excellent, however, due to modern genetics, assuming no more weather calamities complicate the rest of the season.
With that as a background, information compiled by USDA and released by WeatherBill recently was quite alarming. WeatherBill is in its pilot launch year, and provides weather –based coverage to farmers for a premium that can go above and beyond coverage they can obtain through federal crop insurance.
As of May 9 in Indiana, only 4% of the corn was planted. A considerable amount has been planted since then, but nearly all of it after May 10. Some areas have yet seen a tractor turn a wheel. The five-year average for May 9 in Indiana for corn acreage planted is 49%. That means only 8% of the average number of acres planted to corn in Indiana were planted as of May 9.
If misery loves company, Hosiers are not alone. The situation is worse in Ohio, where only 2% was planted on May 9, compared to 65% as the 5-year average. That means Ohio farmers had only 4% planted that they normally have planted on May 9. So 98% of Ohio's corn crop will be planted on or after the last optimum planting date many agronomists still recognize May 10.
Michigan is better, at 8% compared to 49% for the 5-year average, but Michigan grows less corn. Wisconsin was 16% planted as of May 9, compared to 45% on average. In Minnesota, 28% was planting. Surprisingly, however, for a state so far north, the 5-year average for corn planted in Minnesota as of May 9 was 65%.
WeatherBill analysts express concerns that planting delays could prove to be a problem in a year when corn stocks are at a recent low. Corn prices are at record highs, and U.S farmers intend to plant 92.2 million acres to corn, second highest since 1944.
Because planting progressed reasonably well in some western states, USDA reports that 40% of the U.S. corn crop was planted by May 9. However, that's still significantly lower than the 59% planted by May 9 on a 5-year average.
WeatherBill is estimating sizable losses to potential U.S. corn yield and as a result, financial losses to farmers. The relationship between late planting and lower yields is highly documented, and could apply this year if weather conditions don't improve soon. However, each season is different. A lot of what happens could depend on what the weather does during the remainder of the season.