Corn has already been planted on over half of the acreage in the main producing states, ranging from 57% in Ohio to 96% in Iowa, including 74% in Kansas according to the latest USDA report (Figure 1, left). Area of corn emerged follows a similar trend, ranging from 11% in Ohio to 62% in Iowa, including 45% in Kansas (Figure 1, right). One exception for corn emergence is Wisconsin, where emerged area is only 15% compared to its 81% planted area. The latter situation reflects the impact of environmental factors slowing down the emergence progress.
Figure 1. Percent corn planted area (left) and corn emerged area (right) for selected U.S. Midwest states reported on the USDA Crop Progress Report released on May 18, 2020. Graphic created by Leonardo Bastos, K-State Research and Extension.
The progress of corn planted area of the current season has either followed or exceeded the five-year average for Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, and Nebraska (Figure 2). The 2020 season is largely ahead of the progress of last year, when planting was delayed due to cold and wet spring conditions in all the Corn Belt region. In Kansas, the current season progress is closely following the five-year average. Iowa, Minnesota, and Nebraska are already reaching the end of their corn planting operations, with Kansas, Illinois, and Indiana likely catching up in the week to follow, depending on weather conditions.
Figure 2. Progress of corn planted area (%) for selected U.S. Midwest states reported on the USDA Crop Progress Report released on May 18, 2020, including current date, five-year average, and one year ago (2019). Graphic created by Leonardo Bastos, K-State Research and Extension.
One of the main reasons for the 2020 planting season to be on track with the five-year average and ahead of last year is the weather. That is reflected by the number of days suitable for fieldwork in a week, which has generally been 4 or greater since planting started in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, and Nebraska (Figure 3). In Kansas, farmers have had between 4 and 6 days per week when fieldwork was possible since mid-April. The current number of days suitable for fieldwork is considerably greater compared to one year ago, when most farmers had very small windows of planting each week.
Figure 3. Number of days suitable for fieldwork for selected US Midwest states reported on the USDA Crop Progress Report released on May 18, 2020, including current date, and same-week one year ago (2019). Graphic created by Leonardo Bastos, K-State Research and Extension.
Another aspect of good planting weather is the topsoil moisture condition during the planting season (Figure 4). Since mid-April, most of the cropland area has been under adequate topsoil moisture condition in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, and Nebraska (Figure 4). In the latest report, adequate topsoil moisture ranged from 49% of the cropland area in Illinois to 79% of the area in Minnesota, including 51% in Kansas. Cropland area with surplus topsoil moisture conditions has been limited in Kansas, Nebraska, and Iowa since mid-April, while an increase in surplus moisture condition area was reported for Illinois (50% of cropland area) and Indiana (39% of cropland area) this past week.
Figure 4. Topsoil moisture condition class and extent (% cropland area) for selected U.S. Midwest states reported in the USDA Crop Progress Report released on May 18, 2020. Graphic created by Leonardo Bastos, K-State Research and Extension.
Weather conditions in the following weeks will determine how fast farmers will be able to move the needle and get closer to the end of planting operations. According to the 6-10 day weather outlook from the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center (http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/), most of the Corn Belt states will have more than a 45% chance of above-normal precipitation and temperatures. In Kansas, the chance of above-normal precipitation ranges from 32% to 44%, and the chance of above-normal temperature ranges from 32% in Southwest Kansas to 52% in Northeast Kansas. For more information on current temperature and soil moisture in Kansas, check our Mesonet: https://mesonet.k-state.edu.
In summary, the 2020 corn planting season has moved passed half the acreage and is on track with the five-year average and ahead of the 2019 planting season due to current better weather conditions in many Corn Belt states. Depending on weather, it is expected for many states to start reaching the end of planting season in the following weeks. Also, with greater chances of above-normal temperatures in the coming weeks, crop emergence will be able to pick up and set us off to a promising growing season.
Leonardo Bastos, Post-doctoral researcher, Dr. Ciampitti’s Lab
Ignacio Ciampitti, Crop Production and Cropping Systems Specialist