There are many potential impacts associated with the lack of planting progress so far this spring. As we move further into the planting season, it is more likely that farmers will see yield reductions due to late planting. Additionally, corn acreage may switch to soybeans, putting added pressure on the market and increasing stocks.

Farmers have not had many days with ideal planting conditions this year with U.S. planting progress only 49% complete, which is a record low and is significantly behind the average pace of 80%. Iowa farmers are ahead of the U.S. pace with 70% of their corn crop planted, however that is still behind the average pace in Iowa of 88% complete. There are only 3 years since 1990 that corn planting progress in Iowa was less than 70% by Week #20 and those were all in the 1990s.

Soybean planting progress is also well behind the average pace with 19% of U.S. soybeans planted compared to the average of 42%. Since 1990, Iowa has averaged 51% complete by Week #20, but is only at 27% complete in 2019. Iowa had several years in the 1990s where progress was 20% or below in Week #20, however the most recent year that was significantly behind was in 2013 with only 16% planted at this time.

Planting conditions in 2019 have not been ideal with wetter than normal conditions across much of Iowa and many other states. When planting conditions are good, farmers can make significant progress in a short timeframe. For example, in 1992 64% of the Iowa corn crop was planted in one week. Again in 2011, corn planting progress completed during one week exceeded 60% (See the related article on ‘How much we can plant in a week’). However, with less than average days suitable for fieldwork (DSFW) in 2019, farmers have not had necessary time for fieldwork this spring. Iowa farmers only saw 18.5 DSFW statewide during Week #14 to Week #18, which is below the 20-year average of 23.4 total DSFW. In 2013, Iowa had less than 15 DSFW during that timeframe and ended up having a record number of prevent plant acres. With more rain in the forecast, and the recent announcement of the new Farm Aid Plan, farmers will have several things to consider regarding their 2019 crop choices.  

With the final planting dates in Iowa of May 31 for corn for grain and June 15 for soybeans, the provisions of the Prevented and Late Planting aspects of crop insurance are important considerations for farmers faced with these decisions. Marketing and production (yield) impacts were examined in Iowa Farm Bureau’s prevented planting and late period planting return comparison tool.

Michelle Mensing, Research Analyst, Decision Innovation Solutions (DIS). DIS is an Iowa-based economic research firm which provides regular farm economic research for the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation.