Earlier Planting Puts Corn On Fast Track

Crop will still be at mercy of temperature and rainfall at pollination.

Published on: Jun 11, 2012

Across 11 key Corn Belt states, the 2012 season was much less frustrating for planting than 2011. It was a complete turnaround, with corn going into the ground much earlier. That was primarily because 2011 was a cool, wet spring, and 2012 was a warm spring with more stretches of drier weather. The off-the-chart temperatures on the high side in March set the trend for warmer than normal temperatures that continues yet today.

Jeff Hamlin, director of agronomic research for The Climate Corporation, did analysis on planting progress in Corn Belt state for this season vs. last year. The Climate Corporation, based in California, sells insurance to farmers that is intended to bridge the gap between what they can obtain through federally-subsidized crop insurance, and what their actual yields typically are. This firm is all about crunching numbers based upon historical data. Their insurance and claim payments, if any, are based on weather events and how it likely impacts the crop, not on actual yield on your farm.

Earlier Planting Puts Corn On Fast Track
Earlier Planting Puts Corn On Fast Track

Hamlin looked at percentage of corn planted on May 13 in both years. Most agronomists suggest that yield potential begins to decline on average when corn is planted after May 10, and especially after mid-May.

In Indiana, 93% was planted this year, vs. only 22% last year. In Illinois, it was 95% vs. 59% a year ago. The wet trend was more pronounced in the Eastern Corn Belt in 2011. In Ohio, for example, 84% was planted this year by May 13, compared to only 6% in 2011. The numbers in Michigan were 60% vs. 28%. Numbers for some other states, especially western states, weren't as different, since 2011 wasn't the early-season disaster for them that it was for corn farmers in the Eastern Corn Belt. The numbers for Kansas, Missouri, Minnesota, Nebraska, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Iowa were, respectively, 90% vs. 79%; 93 vs. 73; 88 vs. 42; 91 vs. 76; 79 vs. 36; 57 vs. 30; and 90 vs. 85.

What the earlier planting will mean in terms of yield this fall remains to be seen.