Is It Too Early to Worry About Prevent Plant?
With planting progress for the US lagging the average for a handful of crops, lots of questions about prevent plant and the risk around those totals are surfacing. Already the world is facing supply uncertainty, and the threat of losing additional ground for corn production specifically heightens concerns.
To answer whether we should be concerned about prevent plant now, we looked at historical levels of planting progress and the relationship to prevent plant totals, then zoomed in on North Dakota (ND) as risks there are mounting.
Digging into the data
We gathered data from two key sources to answer the question: is it too early to be concerned about prevent plant?
Weekly Crop Progress reports - these are issued by USDA on Mondays (as of the prior Sunday) during the key weeks of the growing season for the US - usually April-October or so, depending on the year.
FSA crop acreage data - these data sets are released monthly, usually from August - January. The data included progressive totals of prevent plant, failed, planted, and volunteer acres with the final report usually released in January.
Crop progress to date vs history - Focus on US corn
As of April 24, the US corn crop was 7% planted versus the average of 15%. Going back to 1980 and looking at the same week across time, here are some stats. Bolded years are record-yielding years, green years represent record-production years. So, at the national level, the current planting pace to date is not worrisome. We have had several years of progress that have run behind this year’s to date pace that ended up being records (2009, 2013, 2014).
Historical vs April 24 US corn planting progress stats
Back to 1980
2% (1984, 1983)
9% (including 2011, 2015)
Years below 7%
14 (including 2008, 2009, 2013, 2014, 2018, 2019)
Years above 7%
Years at 7%
5 (1981, 1995, 1997, 2020, 2022)
Does North Dakota pose risks?
At a national level this year’s corn planting pace to date does not seem too threatening. But we decided to specifically zoom in on North Dakota. We did that for a couple of reasons. First, ND has led the US in prevent plant acres of major crops in five of the last 15 years making it highly prone to planting challenges.
And this year’s planting season has not started out well as record cold temperatures for this time of year, combined with several big snow events, have kept farmers on the sidelines. While this time of year is generally not the height of planting in ND, the weather in April along with the forecast through the first week in May suggest ND could face an uphill challenge getting the corn crop in the ground over the next 30 days.
Over the 2nd half of April, corn growing regions in North Dakota got nearly 4 inches of moisture from several feet of snow fall. That is the highest two-week total for this time of year with the next highest being 1986 at 3 inches and 0.8 inches on average. Unfortunately for producers, there is ample moisture in the near-term forecast as well which stretches into the first week of May as of this writing.
On top of all the moisture, temperatures have been record low for this time of year. The average daytime high for the 2nd half of April is projected to be a brisk 41 degrees, a full 17 degrees below average at this time of the season. The most recent year that was close was 2013, when the last half of April temperatures were 44 degrees. That was a year when North Dakota had significant corn prevent plant, with 13% of the state’s corn acreage not planted. Here again, weather models are forecasting continued cold to persist into the first week of May.
We still have time
Still focusing on ND, we looked at the day of the year (DOY) that ND historically has 10% of the crop planted, 20% planted, 30% etc. We then tested those interpolated values with prevent plant totals for each year. The DOY we need to keep an eye on is around 145 or May 25. If the state has 60% or less of intended corn in the ground by then, the risk of having prevent plant acres increases significantly. Essentially, in the coming 28 days, ND corn planting progress needs to be at that threshold or more to alleviate concerns about not getting the whole corn crop in the ground.
What it means for the farmer
The world is already on edge about price risk in the grain and oilseed complex. US farmers surprised the market in March with lower than expected corn intentions for the coming growing season. Any hint of further cuts in acreage due to Mother Nature’s fickle ways could add more fuel to the price outlook. While still time to see a change in weather to have beneficial impacts in planting pace, it will require a significant warm and dry trend in the Upper Midwest to give farmers a shot ahead of the late May deadline.
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