Late 2013 corn planting has created concerns about the likely magnitude of planted acreage and likely yield potential. The rapid planting progress during the week ended May 19 relieved some of the corn production concerns. Still, a larger than average percentage of the crop will be planted later than is considered optimal for maximum yield potential. Recent and upcoming heavy rain, particularly in Iowa and parts of Illinois and Missouri, means that some corn will be planted extremely late, switched to soybeans, or not planted at all so that production uncertainty persists.
Until recently, there was little concern about the timeliness of soybean planting. However, the same weather that has delayed corn planting may also result in later planting for soybeans.
We have defined late planting as occurring after May 30 since 1986. By this definition, an average of 32% of the acreage was planted late in the last 33 years. The average is high since the planting of double-cropped soybeans generally occurs "late." Those acres typically account for 6-9% of total soybean acreage. Late planted acreage accounted for 48 percent of the acreage in 1986 and 47 percent in 2011. Acreage and yield outcomes in those years might influence expectations for this year if it turns out that a large percentage of the acreage is planted late.
Based on planting intentions of 77.126 million acres this year, previous experience suggests that planted acres will differ from March intentions by about 1.8 million acres, in a range of 1.0 to 2.8 million acres, if late plantings are large. History, however, does not offer much insight on the likely direction of the difference.
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The U.S. average soybean yield relative to trend value also varied in years when planting was late. The U.S. average yield was less than one bushel above trend value in 1986 and 1996, very near trend in 1990 and 1991, and about a bushel below trend in 1995 and 2011. The history of yields in late-planted years suggests that like most other years, the U.S. average yield this year should be within about one bushel of the trend value of 44 bushels per acre unless summer weather conditions are extreme.
The USDA's weekly Crop Progress report indicated that 24% of the U.S. soybean acreage had been planted as of May 19. That compares to the previous 5-year average planting progress of 42%. The slowest progress relative to the previous 5-year average was in Iowa and delays are likely to continue there due to recent and upcoming precipitation. The report to be released on June 3 will allow a calculation of the percentage of the crop planted late by our definition. It appears that percentage will be above the long term average of 32%, but well below the historical extreme of 66%. November 2013 soybean futures have increased about $0.75 from the low on May 10. Much of that increase is apparently based on production concerns related to prospects of more than the average amount of late planting. History suggests that those concerns, particularly from the yield side, are probably premature. The USDA's June 28 Acreage report will provide a clearer picture of the magnitude of planted acreage.
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