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How will slow US corn plantings affect final yield?


Does the US’s historically slow corn sowings period mean compromised yield prospects ahead?

The answer is less than clear.


Certainly, there are years, such as 1995 (which was, until last week, the slowest corn planting year in recent history) where a late-seeded crop has gone on to show a depressed yield.


However, the relationship is by no means universal.


A decade ago, a slow-planted crop went on to produce a then-record yield.


Slowest years for US corn sowings as of May 20 and resulting harvest yield
Year % progress Yield (bpa) Average yield Year-on-year change Change on average yield
1995 50 113.5 119.58 -18.1% -5.1%
1996 61 127.1 118.58 12.0% 7.2%
2009 68 164.4 152.1 2.6% 8.1%
2002 70 129.3 134 -6.4% -3.5%
2013 71 158.1 148.04 3.1% 6.8%
Average yield equals trailing five-year average


In fact, while sowings progress is generally considered a key determinant of final yield, it is by no means the only one.


As Scott Irwin and Todd Hubbs at the University of Illinois have pointed out, “it is important to recognise that good summer weather conditions can offset the projected negative impact of late planting on the national average corn yield”.


Still, “history indicates the probability of this happening is not very high if wet conditions in the Corn Belt persist through mid-May”, they added.


Their latest estimate is for this year’s US corn yield to end up at 170 bushels per acre, which compare with the USDA estimate of 176 bushels per acre.


Chicago broker Allendale suggests a May 20 50% planting pace would push trend yields down to 168.8 bushels per acre.


In production terms, that is equivalent to about 500m-600m bushels lost – significant but not a disaster, although yield is, of course, not the only factor that investors need to take into account.


Agrimoney will consider the potential for acreage losses in a future piece.


Related: Slow start to US corn sowings will depress acreage - but by how much?




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