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A Challenging Crop Year

The wet, cool weather affecting spring field work could linger well into May through the entire central United States, says DTN’s senior ag meteorologist Bryce Anderson.

This adds to the challenges of producers who already anticipated a planting crunch. Many were unable to complete fall field work because of rain. Winter and early spring brought even more moisture, leading to historic flooding in many areas. The Mississippi River is about to crest for the second time this season.  

“Flooding will continue to be a problem through the entire season, especially in the Western Corn Belt,” said Anderson, speaking last week. “Some fields were too damaged to plant this year, for instance.”

Anderson expects prevented plantings in 2019 to total 2 to 3 million acres, well above the 1.5 million average, based on comparisons to analog years 2013 and 2015. Virtually all spring crops could be affected.

“However, once the crops are in the ground, growing conditions promise to be quite favorable,” he said.

A weak El Niño (1o to 2.5o C above normal) in the Pacific Ocean likely will remain in place through the growing season and possibly through the year, Anderson said. El Niño is associated with fewer-than-normal threats to U.S. summer crops. On the downside, he said, it could mean another wetter-than-usual harvest, though “probably not as bad as last year.”

Crop tours ahead of the winter wheat harvest found strong yields. Crops in South America and the Black Sea also are in very good condition, with adequate to excess moisture available in major growing regions, Anderson said.

For more information, contact Bryce Anderson with DTN.

Late Plantings

A conservative estimate for late corn planting this year is at least 5% to 10% above the long-range average of nearly 17%, according to University of Illinois ag economists Scott Irwin and Todd Hubbs. The long-range average spans 1980 to 2018. Especially high levels of late planting (30% of the corn crop was left to be planted after May 20) occurred in 2013, 2002, 2009, 1996, 1993, and 1995, in that order, Irwin reported that in five of those years, the U.S. saw a drop of about 6 bu./acre in national average yield vs. trend yields. Only 2009 saw above-trend yields.

Their analysis of these analog years suggests national yields well below the 175.4 bu/acre. trend yield – 169.3 bu./acre based on all the years between 1980 and 2018 with 10 percent or more planted late, and just 168 bu./acre based on years with very late planting (1995, 1996 and 2009).

Click for more analysis on how many acres may be involved and potential impacts on the crop.

Caveat: Fast planting

A recent Farm Journal Pulse poll released May 2 asked farmers how long it takes to plant their crops in perfect conditions. Forty-two percent said they can do it in less than 10 days. Mark Licht, an agronomist at Iowa State University, calculates corn planting peaks between 1 million and 1.25 million acres a day (just over 13 days to plant this year’s Prospective Plantings) and about 14 days to plant all the soybeans.

But weather forecasts, including Anderson’s, don’t show that many good field days in the next few weeks. Even without additional rain, Anderson said, many fields will be slow to dry because of saturation and lack of sun.

Answers to questions

In anticipation of planting problems, Farm Credit Services of America has assembled answers to the crop insurance questions our customers are asking regarding prevented planting, replanting, late planting, cover crops and related issues.


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