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Planting still behind pace; markets 'complacent' about delays

Agriculture.com Staff 05/18/2009 @ 2:39pm

A year ago, Illinois farmers were on the downhill slide with their corn planting, with almost 3/4 of the year's crop in the ground. And, '08 was a slow year: In the previous five years, the crop was on average more than 90% planted by this week.

Today, it's a much different story. Only 20% of that state's corn is planted. And, farmers are starting to wonder whether or not they'll see enough dry ground to get a crop planted at all. And, even if they do, some say the rain that's already fallen will mean that 20% already in the ground might not make it either. That makes progress even further behind, says one farmer.

"Most likely, it will be Thursday at the earliest and more like Friday or Saturday before most of us do anything," says farmer and Agriculture Online Marketing Talk member kfarms9560. "The forecast I looked at for my area of west-central Illinois has rain coming back in possibly Sunday and Monday. That's only 2 days of possible work, not 4 or 5 like the traders are expecting. Plus, when the planting progress numbers come out...you can subtract at least 10% off of that because of all the replanting that will need to be done after last week's rain event."

But, the corn market isn't exactly running wild on current planting progress, which is more than 20% behind pace nationwide. Instead, University of Illinois Extension ag economist Darrel Good says the trade's attention remains largely elsewhere.

"The market may be underestimating the potential yield implications of extremely late planting in the eastern Corn Belt. It appears, for example, that the percentage of the Illinois crop planted 'late' this year will be the largest in at least 50 years," Good says. "With only 10% planted as of May 10 and a small window of opportunity for planting last week, it appears that a large percentage of the crop will be planted after May 20. Assuming 75% is planted late, the model forecasts a state average yield of 157.4 bushels per acre, almost 22 bushels below the 2008 yield."

The forecast looks drier this week and further on through the end of the month, though, something Good says may salvage some decent yields for the area where planting is the furthest behind schedule. But, yield-wise, what's already lost may not be recovered.

"Each 1% change in the percent of the crop planted after May 20 changes the yield forecast from our model by about 0.3 bushels per acre," he says. "The yield penalty could be larger if a substantial portion of the crop is planted after May 30. A generally drier forecast for the remainder of the month, however, suggests planting could be completed by month's end."

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A year ago, Illinois farmers were on the downhill slide with their corn planting, with almost 3/4 of the year's crop in the ground. And, '08 was a slow year: In the previous five years, the crop was on average more than 90% planted by this week.

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