Corn planting in U.S. Corn Belt and in Kansas is advancing in one of the slowest rates ever recorded. For Kansas, corn planting progress increased from 46 to 61 percent from May 13 to 20 (USDA-NASS Kansas Crop Progress and Condition Report). Similar progress has been observed for Iowa and Nebraska, but with Illinois and Indiana are still quite behind (Figure 1).
Figure 1. Progress of corn planted area (%) from USDA Crop Progress Report, May 20, 2019.
For Kansas, as well as the many other states, corn planted area (%) is still behind from the planted progress recorded in 2018, 61 versus 80% (Figure 2). Similarly, the proportion of emerged plants is quite behind relative to the reported from last year’s average (37 vs. 53%), reflecting the poor early-season growing conditions for the planted fields (combination of low temperatures and wet-to-saturated soil conditions).
Figure 2. Progress of corn planted area (%) from USDA Crop Progress Report, May 20, 2019.
The weather pattern in the past weeks and the projected three-month outlook indicates a 40% likelihood of above-normal precipitation and below-normal temperatures for most of Kansas (from the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center (http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/). Saturated soil conditions impacted the expected number of suitable working days in a given period of time. Knowing how many suitable working days might be available to conduct fieldwork for a given crop operation impacts crop choice and machinery investment decisions. The most active planting dates for corn are usually between April 15 and May 15 (20th to 80th percentile, respectively) and for soybeans and grain sorghum, those dates will go from May 15 to June 20 (20th to 80th percentile, respectively) (2010 USDA NASS handbook).
Since the week of April 29 for Kansas (Figure 3), the number of days suitable for fieldwork has been declining, with the lowest point being less than 2 days, which in many situations was potentially only 1 day before the next rain event.
Figure 3. Number of days suitable for fieldwork from USDA Crop Progress Report released May 20, 2019.
As previously discussed, the number of days suitable for fieldwork remained below normal relative to the average for the last year across the main corn producing states in the U.S. In parallel, the topsoil moisture conditions across many states is reflecting adequate-to-surplus moisture. The states presenting the largest delay in corn planted progress are also the ones documenting more than 50% surplus of topsoil moisture conditions. For Kansas, the topsoil moisture condition (reflected as an average of the state-level cropland area) reached the maximum point of close to 25% of surplus topsoil moisture condition from May 13 (Figure 4). The latter reflects the main challenges faced by farmers for planting crops during this unusually wet spring conditions.
Figure 4. Topsoil moisture conditions classes and percentages from USDA Crop Progress Report released May 20, 2019.
In summary, corn was trailing the respective five-year and last-year progress averages last week, with soybeans in a similar situation.
Depending on your location, delayed planting will be a normal situation considering the weather experienced during this spring. Considering crop insurance and the main agronomic practices to achieve a successful crop will be critical factors guiding our planting decisions.
Ignacio Ciampitti, Cropping Systems Specialist
Leonardo Bastos, Post-doctoral researcher, Dr. Ciampitti’s Lab