It’s no secret that this season’s crop planting is off to a snail’s pace. According to USDA’s Planting Progress Report, as this week began only 9 percent of the corn acres had been planted nationwide. That’s 37 percent below this time last year.
However, it’s important to remember that last spring presented an early and extended crop planting window across much of the Corn Belt. But as Jed Lafferty, managing director of life sciences at Planalytics, points out “year-on-year weather patterns repeat only 20 percent of the time.”
In contrast, the two-week forecast shows little relief in this year’s long stretch of wet weather and cool temperatures. Not only is it keeping tractors out of the fields, it may force “many areas in Missouri and Ohio to replant,” notes Joe Kerns, with International Business Group in Ames, Iowa.
The weather cycle hasn’t budged. “We are in a portion of an 18-year cycle that is influenced by the same patterns that we experienced in 1993,” Kerns notes. “Not to the same degree, but similar—in a year with no room for error in the corn crop.” With the current pattern, dry conditions come with cooler weather; then the return of warm temperatures sets of more storms, for a vicious circle.
The cool temperatures could have another extended impact. “There’s a high risk of late freezes,” says Fred Gesser, senior business meteorologist, Planalytics. “Last freeze days could run 10 days to two weeks lather than normal.” Also, the lingering cool, wet weather increases the potential for plant diseases.
Looking further out, he expects a “high risk of hail, and a high risk of drought,” especially into Iowa and Missouri. “Conditions will be wetter than normal in the Ohio and Tennessee Valleys, with a prolonged period of cooler than normal temperatures for the Great Lakes, and south into the Ohio Valley,” Gesser notes.
In the country’s northern tier, snow has lingered and reoccurred late this season. Canada, which goes mostly unnoticed during U.S. planting season, is facing a worse scenario. Rain and snow moved through Saskatchewan this past weekend. “You will see little to no planting there, and in Manitoba, until the end of May,” Kern says. Challenges in Canada’s major grain-production area will only add to global supply burdens.
Flooding has already occurred in several states, and there’s more to come. High-water conditions continue to threaten the Mississippi, Illinois and Ohio rivers just to name a few.
Talk of corn acres switching over to soybeans is increasing. Corn can be planted until June 1, depending on where you are. But after about May 10 to May 15, yields start to decline, says Steve Meyer, president of Paragon Economics. And, the need is for an average yield of +165 bushels per acre this year.
Of course, with today’s equipment, planting can make tremendous progress in just a few days once the ground dries. “If it gets sunny, we can plant this crop in three to five days,” Meyer says.
An even longer-term risk of late plantings is late harvest. With USDA’s 675 million bushel carryover estimate (about a three-week supply), physical corn supplies could dry up before new crop harvest begins. A late harvest would cause serious supply problems if it lasts into late September or October.