CHICAGO May 14 U.S. corn yields are unlikely to
reach their full potential this year as the slowest planting
pace on record shortens the growing season, increasing risks
that plants will pollinate under peak summer heat, agronomists
said on Tuesday.
"We have taken some off of our yield potential," said
Emerson Nafziger, extension agronomist at the University of
Illinois. "Our preference is to have it in the ground by May 1."
Nafziger said that based on the last six years of the
university's lab results for Illinois, the No. 2 U.S. corn
state, corn planted after May 10 in the state could see a yield
loss of 6 percent, after May 20 a 12 percent loss, and after May
31 a 20 percent loss.
Corn grown in the U.S. Midwest grain belt typically starts
pollinating in July. Plant growth and yield potential can be
reduced if plants are forced to devote energy to staying cool
during the hottest days of summer.
Farmers had planted only 28 percent of their intended acres
as of Sunday in the United States, the world's largest producer
and exporter. The planting progress was the lowest in records
that go back to 1980, according to the U.S. Agriculture
"Most farmers would plant corn in the first few days of June
if they had a good chance to get it in in good shape. The yield
potential is high enough that you can give up 15 to 20 percent
and have a good yield on corn, and good income," Nafziger said.
Last week USDA forecast this season's U.S. corn yield at
158.0 bushels per acre, below a projection for 163.6 bpa in
February, but sharply higher than the last year's
drought-reduced yield of 123.4 bpa.
Grain processors, livestock feeders, ethanol makers and
exporters are all crossing their fingers that U.S. farmers will
produce a bumper crop after last year's devastating drought
slashed yields, with supplies forecast as the smallest in 16
years by the end of the summer.
Portions of the U.S. Corn Belt, mostly east of the
Mississippi River, saw record rainfall in April that recharged
soils depleted of moisture following last summer's worst drought
since 1934. But cooler-than-normal temperatures left fields too
wet for planting and also slowed crop emergence in planted
"The new stuff going in now, it will be up in a week or 10
days," said Roger Elmore, extension agronomist at Iowa State
University in the country's top corn producing state. "It will
be very competitive and probably be higher yielding than the
stuff that was put in earlier."
However, farmers risk yield loss if they plant in fields
that are not fully dry. Soils can become compacted, slowing root
"People are going to be pushing soil conditions more than
they should just to get things done quickly," Elmore said.
"If a lot of guys are mudding it in, that'll reduce yield."
Farmers in southern Indiana are eager to begin seeding corn
to put last summer's devastating drought behind them, but many
have been sidelined for weeks as on-and-off rains have kept
their fields too soggy for heavy planting machinery, industry
Producers there are not yet switching their corn acres to
soybeans, which can be planted later in the spring, as this
week's window of warm, clear weather was expected to remain open
until Thursday. But another rain system was expected to arrive
late this week.
"They're calling for another half inch or inch of rain later
this week so, if they don't get corn in by Thursday, I'm sure
some guys will be seriously thinking about switching," a dealer
at a southern Indiana elevator said.
(Additional reporting by Tom Polansek in Chicago; Editing by