U.S. corn planting is advancing at the slowest pace in 16 years due to cold, wet conditions that continue to limit fieldwork across eastern and northern areas of the Corn Belt. Monday afternoon’s weekly crop update from USDA pegged corn planting progress at 13% as of Sunday, below trade expectations that averaged 16% and well below the year-earlier progress of 66% and the five-year average pace of 40%.
USDA reported no significant planting progress across Illinois, Indiana or Ohio last week. Illinois planting progress was unchanged from a week earlier at 10% against a five-year average of 46%, with only 2% of Indiana corn and 1% of Ohio corn planted.
Planting advanced 5 percentage points last week in the top corn state of Iowa, but was still only 8% done as of Sunday against a five-year average of 48%.
The best planting progress was in the No. 3 corn state of Nebraska, where producers seeded 10% of their crop last week and were 15% done against an average pace of 35%.
In the No. 4 corn state of Minnesota, only 1% of the crop had been planted against an average pace of 46%. The Minnesota planting pace is the slowest since 1983. No corn planting activity was reported in North Dakota so far and only 2% of the South Dakota crop was planted.
The U.S. planting progress estimate was the lowest for the start of May since 1995 when less than 12% of the crop had been planted by May 1.
Other years when the U.S. corn planting pace was slower than this year include 1993, when less than 9% of the crop had been planted by May 1; 1984, when less than 7% had been planted and 1983 when 9% of the crop had been planted.
Three of those four years produced below-trend-line yields with yields falling well below the trend-line in 1983 and 1993. Only 1984 produced an above-trend yield.
At this point it seems unlikely that half of the U.S. corn crop will be in the ground by mid-May, when yield potential starts to decline significantly.
Planting progress should accelerate rapidly across Iowa and Nebraska this week and pick up across southern Minnesota as the western Corn Belt is expected to stay mostly dry through Friday.
However, conditions will remain too wet for planting in most of the eastern Corn Belt with a new round of rains moving through that area and planting activity will be slow to pick up in the Dakotas where producers are far behind on fieldwork.
That does not mean that the U.S. can’t grow a large corn crop this year as yield will still depend heavily on weather after planting.
However, the odds of an above-trend yield are certainly reduced as corn pollination will be pushed back into what is normally the hottest period of the summer in the Corn Belt.
To produce an above-trend yield the crop may need ideal weather from mid-May out – warm conditions during late May and June to boost development, cooler-than-normal weather during pollination and a late frost to allow full grain filling.
USDA was expected to report nationwide soybean planting progress for the first time this season, but did not as wet weather stalled soybean planting across the Delta and the mid-South.
The last time that USDA did not report nationwide soybean planting progress by May 1 was 2001.
Editor’s note: Richard Brock, Corn & Soybean Digest's marketing editor, is president of Brock Associates, a farm market advisory firm, and publisher of The Brock Report.