With 85% of the corn planted as of last Monday’s USDA Crop Progress report, this spring’s planting is running ahead of schedule for many farmers.
“Crops here are in good shape for now,” says one farmer in Chicot Country, Ark., with “corn knee-high to waist high.”
Growers who escaped the rains are also in good shape. “Corn (is) all in and most up,” reports a farmer in Pottawattamie County, Iowa.
But will all this early planting translate into bigger yields this fall?
Yes, according to University of Illinois researchers Scott Irwin, Darrel Good and John Newton. “Agronomic research at the farm-level clearly shows that early planting of corn, all else constant, results in higher yields,” they write. “However, the same research shows that the penalty for late planting is much larger than the benefit of early planting.”
Here are the dates that appear to affect yield for better or worse:
- If you planted your corn before April 25, that results in the highest yield.
- If you planted your corn between April 25 and May 15, that will result in “modest yield penalties.”
- If you planted your corn after May 15, that may result in “more severe yield penalties” for your crop.
That May 15 date is a key one, both for your own farm and USDA’s numbers. According to the agency’s early-season corn yield projections approach, “the model produces an estimate that the U.S. average corn yield is increased by 0.289 bushels per acre for each percentage of the crop that is planted by May 15.”
Based on that number, the USDA estimates a yield of 166.8 bushels, just a shade less than the U of I’s calculation of 166.9 bushels.
Of course, summer weather still matters. “July temperature and precipitation are typically the most important factors influencing the U.S. average corn yield,” the researchers say.
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