Yield Implications of Delayed Corn Planting

Ag economists parse USDA data to determine if there is reason for concern

The late spring has many worried. Others are confident farmers can plant a corn crop in 5 working days. Todd Gleason reports, University of Illinois agricultural economists have gone through the USDA data to see if this is true and what impact a late planting season might have on corn yields.

The grand prairie of Illinois is still lying dormant. It’s soils are just beginning to reach that magical 50 degree mark. That’s when the corn planters begin to roll.

It’s a late start to the season this year, and despite the increased size of the machinery University of Illinois Agricultural Economist Scott Irwin says it’ll still take about as much time to plant the corn crop this season as it did nearly 30 years ago.

Irwin: If we are operating at our maximum capacity, it takes about fourteen days and when we say days we mean field days not calendar days, to get the job done.

The reason is simple. There are fewer farmers using bigger machines. So, it is pretty likely it will take a while to get the corn crop in the ground says Irwin, and that has some serious implications.

Irwin: Our optimum window clearly closes May 1st based on the agronomic trials we have access to and by May 10th we are definitely into the late planting time frame and it is hard to see, unless we get extraordinarily lucky with a planting window opening up, that we are not going to have above average late planted acres. Certainly in Illinois, and I am 100 percent confident of that as you go north where they are still melting the snow.

ILLINOIS analysis suggests the number of late planted corn acres could 5 to 10% more than usual. If so, the impact on the nation wide corn yield could be between a bushel and quarter to two-and-half bushels to the acre lost.

— Scott Irwin, Agricultural Economist – University of Illinois
Todd Gleason, Farm Broadcaster