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Planters Rev Up, Grain Prices Back Down

April 27, 2013
By: Sara Schafer, Farm Journal Media Business and Crops Editor
speed rev up

While you may be nervous about planting your corn in a timely fashion, the markets aren’t worried.

It has definitely been a sluggish spring. Continued cool and wet (even snowy) weather has kept corn planting at a standstill.

As of April 21, USDA estimates 4 percentage points of the U.S. corn crop is in the ground. This compares to 26% planted at this time last year and a five-year average of 16%. Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota and Wisconsin all have virtually no corn planted.

Jerry Gulke, president of the Gulke Group, says while he’s seen nobody in the fields near his Illinois farm, he knows farmers are ready. "I would say by Sunday or Monday farmers in my area will be going full-speed," he says. "Everything is tilled since last fall was a good tillage time, so everything is ready-to-go."

The concern for many farmers, Gulke says, is that they won’t be able to get their entire corn crop in. But, he’s not worried, yet.

"Sunlight is direct this time of the year, which really helps dry out soil." he says. "We’ll start Monday unless the weatherman tells me it’s going to be 30 degrees again."

He has clients in Iowa, Nebraska and other parts of Illinois who are in the same boat. "They have started or are starting this weekend. So, we’ll make some progress. I think we’ll be surprised by how much we can get done."

Gulke reminds that normal weather in May is warm and rainy. "We have to expect that, and then hit it pretty hard when we have a window of opportunity."

Corn Yield Penalties

This week, Gulke spent some time looking back at planting date and final yield data for corn. From 1990 to 2012 (not including 1988), he says there were only four times where we were not 50% planted by May 12.

In those years where half of the corn crop wasn’t planted by May 12, Gulke says the final national yield was around 12 – 15 bushels below the trendline, at that time.

He says that provides some telling perspective. "Besides last year, it was very hard to get below at 10 or 15-bushel drop in yields," he says.

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