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Is 'The Unofficial Start of Prevented Plant Season' Here?

Sure, May isn't over yet, and there's still plenty of time to get all of this year's corn and soybean crop in the ground. But, Mother Nature's not helping, and some farmers now face some tough decisions about fields that have either not been planted or now need replanted after heavy rainfall in the last month. That rain's kept planting strides short since early May, when a major portion of the U.S. corn crop was sown in fairly short order.

Though the marketplace typically abides by the "rain makes grain" mantra, the moisture that's hit parts of the Plains and Corn Belt has limited planting and crop development progress, so much so now some farmers are weighing replant decisions and even leaving some acres fallow and filing Prevented Planting crop insurance claims.

"Dumped 2 1/2 inches out of the rain gauge on Monday from Sat/Sun rains, then got another 2 1/2 inches last night," says Marketing Talk advisor WCMO. "Kansas City news station this morning said that this is now the 9th-wettest May on record, at least according to their records at Kansas City, Missouri. And, rain in the forecast every day this week."

That rainfall -- though not falling as heavily everywhere as in WCMO's area, is having other consequences to the young corn crop; normally places like south-central Nebraska are warming up and drying out about this time of the summer. That's been far from the case this year, reports farmer and Marketing Talk contributor childofthecorn.

"A lot of acres here looking under the weather in south-central Nebraska. Way too much cloudy, drizzly weather. Starting to see chemical damage in corn from not being able to metabolize the chemicals. A lot of the corn has bad color. Some beans have been in the ground for almost 2 weeks and haven't emerged yet," WCMO says. "Things don't look as rosy as the CME wants me to believe it is!"

Flooding was an issue in parts of the Plains and fringe areas of the Corn Belt over the weekend, and though those concerns are likely to subside in the next week, more rainfall chances in the next 5 days (the 6- to 10-day outlook is drier) and cooler temperatures toward the week's end are starting to fuel anxieties about the prospect of replanting acres where seeds in the ground may be flat-out dead.

"Too wet to spray and need to replant the last 350-400 acres of corn, but rain is in the forecast for the next 7 days. Too muddy to float a snipe across the ground and not leave a track," says Marketing Talk contributor nitefarm. "Thought we were in good shape on May 13. Finished 1,850 acres of corn but did not figure on over 5 inches of rain and a forecast for more. Oh, the joys of farming. I think Chicago had better wake up from what I am reading and seeing on the weather maps."

If you're in this boat, you might may be on the fence as to whether you'll need to replant any of your fields. Yes, it's still early enough experts say replanting shouldn't be on top of your mind. But, that point's not far off, and it's important to make sure you weigh all the right factors in reaching a replanting decision.

"Before replanting, you'll need an idea of corn yield potential. Corn yields typically decline with later planting dates," according to a report from University of Nebraska Extension agronomist Roger Elmore. "Delaying planting until mid to late May at two Iowa locations reduced yields from near zero to near 50%, depending on the location. Plan on a yield reduction with replanting in late May. The remaining growing season will dictate the effect of late planting in 2015."

Bearing that in mind, consider these factors when deciding whether or not to replant:

  1. How many plants are still alive?

    The optimal plant population is something of a moving target and specific to your farm. But, research shows populations between about 25,000 and 30,000 seeds/acre typically will get you to the top end of your yield potential window. So, knowing how many seeds you still have in good shape in the ground can help you decide whether to get the planter back out.

    "In rainfed corn with yield potentials greater than 115 bu/acre, yields decreased 1.6 bu/acre for every 1,000-plant reduction as stands were reduced between 40,000 and 18,000 plants/acre.  On the other hand, in areas yielding less than 115 bu/acre, yields improved 1.3 bu/acre for every 1,000-plant stand reduction as stands were reduced from 36,000 to 24,000 plants/acre," Elmore says. "In irrigated studies, yields decreased 0.5 bu/acre for every 1,000 plant reduction as stands were reduced between 42,000 and 28,000 plants/acre. These trends provide a measure of yield effects of stand reductions and will help evaluate the need for replant. We need to keep in mind that the plant populations in these studies were set at planting. Results from studies where plant populations were thinned after emergence may provide different results."

  2. Is replanting worth it, yield-wise?

    If you're getting too far along in the spring and early summer and you've still got acres to plant, you may not be able to glean enough return on the repeated pass through the field, yield drag and required machinery maintenance to pull it off. If you can make the case based on yield and existing plant populations, check your varieties. Some may flat-out not work in the conditions some farmers may face and the window for overall maturation required.

    "If replanting occurs in May, changing hybrids may not be necessary. We also know that the same hybrid planted later in the season generally takes about 6.8 less GDDs per day-delay-in-planting during May to reach black layer. For a given hybrid, each day planting is delayed after May 1 results in a decrease of around 6.8 GDDs needed for that hybrid to reach black layer," Elmore says. "At this time, the U2U Decision Tool does not take this adjustment into account automatically, but it can be done by manually changing the black layer GDDs. Remember, if you do replant, grain moisture content will be higher in fuller-season hybrids and fall frost may affect yields."

  3. Can you keep the weeds at bay?

    Though it may seem like a tiny concern at this point in the year if you've got crop yet to plant, weed control is an issue, and likely increasingly so as the season progresses, especially given the wet weather conditions that are just as much a boon for weeds as it is germinating crops. Will you be able to keep the weeds knocked down if you replant, considering the lengthened timeframe for necessary control, Elmore says.

    "If you decide to stay with the stand you have, a low corn plant population in portions of a field will definitely reduce light interception by the corn canopy. In turn, this may lead to late-season weed infestations. This can be more of a problem with species that have a late season emergence pattern like waterhemp and morning glory. Applying post-emergence residual herbicides targeting waterhemp may help reduce weed pressure," he says.

Looking through this week, the next 5 days look to be damp in much of the nation's central third, including both the Plains and Corn Belt. Flooding that's hit parts of Texas and Oklahoma will subside and though the rain will also taper off by about mid-weekend, the drier air won't be all that warm.

"This is not to say that wetness isn't a concern across much of the hard red wheat belt, but flooding is mostly limited to far eastern portions of the belt. Flooding is also very limited across the major corn and soybean areas and should remain so across the Midwest. Flooding may increase some across the Delta, however, with heavy rainfall expected today," according to Monday's Commodity Weather Group, LLC (CWG) Ag QUICKsheet weather report.

Adds Kyle Tapley, senior ag meteorologist with MDA Weather Services: "Rains will slow fieldwork and could be locally heavy late in the week for mainly IA/WI, but a break then aids late seeding until rains return to the northwest Midwest later next week into the 11 to 15 day. While flooding risks remain localized, this will leave these areas most prone to late seeding delays."

Just as concerning as the inclement crop weather conditions for the remainder of the week, for many farmers, is the perception of those conditions by the marketplace. The old adage that "rain makes grain" carries a lot of weight with traders, and though that's normally the case, conditions right now are anything but perfect for young corn and soybeans.

"There will be lost plantings in southwest Midwest and in the Delta/Southeast that we don’t seem to care about now,” says Jack Scoville, PRICE Futures Group vice-president.

"They all believe that saying that 'rain makes grain.' That may be true to a point, but once everything is drowned and much of the crop seed is still in the bag, more rain doesn't help at all. It is a shame no one will listen," says Marketing Talk contributor Mike central IA. "Instead, there will be more knee-jerk reactions and over-reactions that really foul up the works. Same old song. Different verse."

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