Corn planting progress

Corn planting progress: 2019 percentage of intended acres planted compared to five-year average. (Source: USDA/NASS)

If misery loves company, when it comes to corn and soybean planting there is plenty of love throughout the Midwest, says University of Missouri Extension agronomist Bill Wiebold.

Almost continually wet weather means wet soils, and that means days suitable for planting are few and far between.

May rainfall totals in parts of Missouri are above 10 inches, with rain in the forecast for much of the next week.

Somehow, Missouri farmers have planted 62 percent of their intended corn acres according to USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service information published May 20. That’s less than Iowa but much more than states along the Ohio River, Wiebold says.

Only 24, 14 and nine percent of the corn has been planted in Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. 

“Although 62 percent is not terrible, that is 30 percentage units less than the five-year average of 92 percent,” Wiebold says.

The misery is deeper in several states. Corn planting progress is 65, 59 and 53 percentage points behind the five-year averages for Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. Based on March planting intentions, more than 40 million acres of corn remain to be planted in 11 Midwest states.

About 71 percent of the planted Missouri corn has emerged. Unfortunately, NASS estimates that 65 percent of the emerged corn is in fair condition or worse. Unfortunately, many corn enemies, including the fungi that cause seedling diseases, thrive in wet, cool soils.

Wiebold says an article by MU Extension corn and small grains specialist Greg Luce offers excellent advice to farmers who are considering replanting corn. Read “Evaluating Corn Stands for Possible Replant” at ipm.missouri.edu/IPCM/2019/5/evaluatingCornStands.

A summary statement from Luce’s article might be that a moderately poor corn stand (16,000 plants per acre, for example) from a May 1 planting may have yield potential equal to or greater than an excellent stand from a May 31 planting.

Delayed corn planting pushes back soybean planting. Only 9% of Missouri’s intended soybean acreage has been planted, according to NASS. That is 29 percentage points behind the state’s five-year average of 38 percent. Ohio farmers have planted only 4 percent of their intended soybean acreage—31 percentage points behind their five-year average.

Farmers might be thinking about changing some of the acreage from corn to soybean. 

“That may make sense when considering yield potentials. But I offer two cautions,” Wiebold says. “Some of those 40 million corn acres will not be planted in 2019. The majority of corn acres that were or will be planted were planted after the optimum date for yield. Fewer acres and decreased yield potential will put upward pressure on corn grain prices. 

“If soybean acreage increases above the 85 million intended, soybean prices may be depressed from their currently poor levels. These potential changes in price and income may tip the balance toward staying with corn.”

Because of wet harvest conditions last fall, soybean seed quality is poor for many varieties, he says. “Seed of high-yielding varieties with good to excellent seed quality is scarce. Farmers switching from corn to soybean may need to accept varieties that are not their first or second choice.”

The decision to switch from corn to soybean or to stay with corn is a difficult one, Wiebold says. 

“This is partly because we are in a situation where the decision is between two bad alternatives,” Wiebold says. “All of us that love Missouri agriculture have empathy for farmers as they wait for dry weather to return so they can get back to the parts of farming they love.”