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Corn Yields Relative to Planting Pace

May 23, 2013
Kelsey Stamm starting the corn planting process
  
 
 

R.L. (Bob) Nielsen, Purdue University

The Pace of Corn Planting Progress Over Years: Another Conundrum

In response to this year's delayed planting season, I recently discussed the conundrum of statewide corn yields relative to statewide planting progress (Nielsen, 2013). There is another conundrum related to the fact that today's larger field equipment, including planters, allows for greater planting progress per day or per week than was possible many years ago. This fact encourages optimism that delayed starts to the planting season can be overcome by the ability to plant a greater percent of the state's crop per week when "push comes to shove."

Certainly, the number of 24-, 32-, 36-row, or larger planters across the U.S. Midwest is greater today than, say, twenty years ago. Certainly, an individual farmer can plant more acres of corn per day with this large equipment than 20 years ago. However, historical data suggests that the pace of corn planting in terms of percent of total corn acres planted each week has not changed in 20 years.

Figure 1 depicts the single greatest week of corn planting progress in Indiana for each year since 1992. The record greatest weekly planting pace during those 21 years was 50 percent during the first week of May in 2001. The next two fastest weeks of corn planting progress were in 1992 and 1993 with 46 and 42 percent, respectively. Indiana corn growers have rarely come close to that magnitude of weekly planting progress since.

So, the conundrum is why has the maximum percent of total corn acres planted in single week not increased in 20 years? The answer does not appear to be related to changes in total corn acres planted in Indiana because that number has remained fairly consistent in recent history (Fig. 1).

One could speculate that farmers today are planting soybeans earlier than they did twenty years ago and so fewer resources are available to plant corn during the traditionally important 4-week planting window that begins in late April. One way to address this question is to calculate the ratio of soy to corn planting progress during that 4-week period and then determine whether that ratio has changed over time. Doing so indeed suggests that soybean planting progress during that 4-week period has increased somewhat since 1992, but the historical relationship is statistically very weak (Fig. 2).

Another factor that may contribute to the planting pace conundrum is the fact that the number of corn growers in Indiana has decreased over time and those remaining are farming more acres than they did twenty years ago. Even though farm machinery is larger today and cover more acres per day than twenty years ago, fewer farmers are farming more acres and so total planting progress in terms of percent of total acres per week remains fairly unchanged.

For what it's worth, that's my opinion and you are entitled to it.

PlantingPace

Fig. 1. The greatest single week of corn planting progress (percent of corn acres planted) in Indiana each year since 1992.

 

Soy Corn Plt Ratio

Fig. 2. The annual ratio of [Percent of soy acres planted] versus [Percent of corn acres planted] during the 4-week period beginning April 23. Indiana soybean and corn planting progress, 1992 - 2012.

 

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RELATED TOPICS: Corn, Crops

 
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COMMENTS (4 Comments)

R77 - KS
Also if you have a 36 row planter and one row fails you stop 36 rows instead of 6-12 rows. Not to mention we are trying to do more micro managing fert and seed and that take a lot of time to calculate and install in the planter when you move to different fields. We are variable rating 8 different ingredients and that takes time to program and load product.
7:59 PM May 26th
 
82
Good post Marty, that is the very reason for unchanging planting progress. Two smaller planters of equal rows will ALWAYS out plant one big planter with the same amount of rows as the two smaller planters per day.
In my case one 16 row has replaced two 8 rows, a 6 row, and a 4 row to cover the same acres.
Another reason is man power, we have 2 1/2 people working the same acres that 8 people used to work, and we need to sleep at least a few hours at night. With the ever rising cost of new equipment it is quite challenging to over equip yourself nowadays.
12:37 PM May 23rd
 
82
Good post Marty, that is the very reason for unchanging planting progress. Two smaller planters of equal rows will ALWAYS out plant one big planter with the same amount of rows as the two smaller planters per day.
In my case one 16 row has replaced two 8 rows, a 6 row, and a 4 row to cover the same acres.
Another reason is man power, we have 2 1/2 people working the same acres that 8 people used to work, and we need to sleep at least a few hours at night. With the ever rising cost of new equipment it is quite challenging to over equip yourself nowadays.
12:37 PM May 23rd
 
marty - torrington, WY
Interesting but for what it is worth the reason for the unchanging planting progress could be due to the fact that even though the size of planters have increased the number of individual planting units being used per acre have relatively stayed the same. For example a younger farmer who had been using a 12 row planter now leases three farms from retiring farmers who had two 12 rows and one 8 row planter. That would be a total of 44 planting units. Now the younger farmer who has more acres trades his 12 row for a 36 row planter and you see there are now 8 units less planting
corn. Without substantially increasing the number of planting units available per total corn acres our only options for shortening the planting window to optimize yield potential would come from increased hours of planting per day (24/7), increasing ground speed, and reducing down time for repairs and maintainence. all of which may or may not be viable options.
9:16 AM May 23rd
 



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