July 3, 2015

Do rain delays affect corn crop yield?

What is different about this corn planting year? The weather- more specifically the moisture received, perhaps. Sure, we’ve had plenty of rain in years past that has delayed planting. But this year, the markets have shown the threat that rain delays have on planting conditions and ability to even get a crop in the ground.

Rainfall in the planting season (typically between April and May) around areas of the state caused planting delays of the state's largest row crop. For some farmers, tillage operations, herbicide applications, and nitrogen fertilizer applications must be completed first before they can consider planting their crops.

Does a delayed start to planting affect the corn crop and even yield? If you look at USDA-NASS crop progress reports for the past 20 years (USDA-NASS, 2015b), there is not a strong relationship between planting date and absolute yield on a statewide basis. Yet, many farmers were simply not even able to “mud in” the crop this year because of conditions.

And the markets reflected this. On Tuesday after the most recent USDA-NASS crop progress report was posted, corn prices (along with soybean prices) were up sharply, their biggest rally in five years, from concerns of diminished harvests.

Nebraska corn planting acreage estimates were unchanged from March, 9.3 million acres, matching last year, but soybean acres were down 4 percent from last year to 5.1 million acres, and down from a 5.2 million estimate in March.

Nationwide, growers planted an estimated 88.9 million acres to corn, fewer than estimated in March and the lowest corn acreage in the United States in the last half a decade. July corn futures were up 30.75 cents a bushel to $4.14, 8 percent.

Historically speaking, corn that has gotten in late does not take much time to take off and produce a great crop. The next question is, will Nebraska farmers need to irrigate this summer? We’ll see what El Nino has planned!

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