Fundamentally Speaking

Do Early Corn Plantings Help Maximize Acreage and Yields

Joel Karlin
By  Joel Karlin , DTN Contributing Analyst
Chart by Joel Karlin

This graph shows the percent of the U.S. corn crop planted by May 15 going back to 1986 on the left hand axis and for each year, we also show the percent that the final yield deviated from the 1986-2019 trend along with the percent that final plantings deviated from the farmer intention figures given at the end of March.

For reasons we have outlined in prior posts, a faster than normal pace of corn seedings tends to result in more acreage than given in the end of March prospective plantings report and yields that tend to average above trend based on corn not being subjected to hotter summer temperatures during the critical reproductive phase and a smaller than normal chance that a large part of the crop will not be mature by the time the normal first fall freeze date arrives, let alone an early one.

The correlation between plantings and deviation from trend yields is only 22% since summer weather (precipitation and temperatures) is still the most important factor, but the correlation between seedings complete by May 19 and the change in corn planted area between the March intentions and the final crop production report is much higher at 63%.

The extrapolated 76% corn planted figure as of May 15 is well ahead of the five-year average and the third fastest pace seen over the past decade and is double the year ago 38%.

Of course, last year was the slowest corn planting season ever yet in retrospect, the hit to planted acreage and final yields was probably far less than many in the trade had expected.

The final 2019 yield of 168.0 bushels per acre (bpa) was only 3.1% off the long-term trend, though final planted area at 89.7 million was about 3.10 million below the March intentions of 92.8 million.

This 3.3% decline from the prospective plantings to the final production report is actually the third largest since 1986.

The only years that come close are 1995 when 39% was planted as of May 15 with final yields that season 9.2% below trend and final planted acreage 5.4%, or 4.08 million acres down from what was indicated in March, and 1993 when 37% was in the ground with yields 16.7% below trend and acreage down 4.1%, or 3.163 million off from the March 1993 intentions report.


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