#Plant20 Update: Corn Planting Is Moving Along

What a difference a year can make! Corn planting thus far in 2020 has progressed more than two times faster than 2019 according to USDA’s planting progress figures released on Monday, May 4.

FBN’s own planting progress poll shows members are making quick work of corn acres across core portions of the Corn Belt in 2020, with farmers in Iowa and Minnesota impressively nearing completion. Central Illinois, Southern Indiana, Ohio, and North Dakota are lagging behind a bit because of regional rain (IL) and/or cold temperatures (IN, OH, ND) that have somewhat hobbled planting efforts.

The year-to-year turnabout is quite simple to explain—rainfall and snowmelt have been at average to below-average levels in 2020, whereas 2019 saw historically wet conditions across large swaths of the U.S.

That’s not to say that farmers everywhere in the U.S. have had it easy when it comes to planting in 2020. The Mid-South, Mid-Atlantic and Southeast have been rocked by severe weather that brought tornado outbreaks and extreme rainfall reaching 400% of normal. Meanwhile Central Illinois has also been a target for spring storms, creating soggy soil conditions that are not ideal for planting (see map below).

Still, overall planting progress for corn to date is on par with or ahead of the 5-year average in much of the U.S., according to data from the USDA, and is in a completely different universe from what we witnessed at this point in 2019:

What you should know about early planting

For those who have been able to get their crop in the ground, early planting has its benefits. FBN member-contributed data and academic research data have both shown time and again that early seeding pays dividends at harvest by pushing reproductive growth stages earlier in the season. This in turn reduces heat risks that can devastate pollination and seed set and late-season frost risks that can halt seed fill.

Early planting does, however, expose you to increased risk of frost injury and cold shock in corn that can lead to season-long stand issues or force you to replant. In fact, over the weekend and into next week, a polar vortex is brewing that will plummet temperatures and dump substantial rain creating frost and cold shock risks for much of the Eastern Corn Belt and Upper Midwest.

Learn more about the impact of cold temps on recently planted corn.

2020 will almost certainly not be “perfect”—nothing ever is—but it’s safe to say we are off to a tremendously better start than the craziness we experienced in the early months of the 2019 crop year.

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