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Early planting = above-trend yields?

Jeff Caldwell 04/19/2012 @ 9:20am Multimedia Editor for Agriculture.com and Successful Farming magazine.

This week's USDA Crop Progress report shows farmers are getting their corn in the ground, generally, at the quickest national pace on record. So, beyond just having time to stop and take a breath, then knock out other spring work, what are the implications for farmers and grain marketers of a quick and painless corn planting season?

Farmers will likely reach the halfway point to corn planting this spring faster than any year in the last half-century in states like Illinois and Indiana. Though other states aren't knocking off records quite as readily, the pace is still swift. But, it's not the first year for such a pace, and it won't be the last.

This year, the planting pace has one major potential implication. The first, say University of Illinois ag economists Scott Irwin and Darrel Good, is in yield. If most of the crop's getting into the ground early, that means fewer acres will be planted later and incurring the yield penalty with doing so. So, barring any major problems during the growing season, it's safe to estimate average yields just above trend.

"Corn planting in 2012 will reach the 50% completion date earlier than any other year since 1960 in Illinois and perhaps in Indiana as well. While Iowa is not likely to set a record early date, it is likely that Iowa will reach 50% complete well before its trend date," according to Irwin and Good in a university report. "While some records will be set in 2012 it is important to keep in mind that other years have seen corn planting almost as early. The main market implication is that a smaller than average percentage of the U.S. corn crop is likely to be planted late (after May 20) and incur the yield penalty associated with late planting.

"A smaller than average portion of the crop planted late supports the expectation for the 2012 corn yield to be about two bushels above trend, if there are no other offsetting factors later in the season," they add.


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