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Window closing for Midwestern corn farmers to plant crops amid persistent wet weather

By Adriana Navarro, AccuWeather staff writer
May 17, 2019, 5:14:54 PM EDT

Ruined Corn Crop

Workers stand atop a mountain of flood-damaged corn seed at the Bartlett grain elevator in Hamburg, Iowa, Friday, May 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

The persistent wet weather in the Midwest has led to delays in corn planting for many farmers in the Corn Belt, potentially causing a decrease in the corn yield this year.

Midwestern farmers plant two main crops: corn and soybeans. Their current concerns, however, lie with planting corn first and on time, as it has a longer growing season.

The key date to plant corn by to avoid smaller crops is May 20. Normally, 80% of corn is planted by this date.

On May 13 of this year, only 30% of U.S. corn crop was planted, according to figures released by the latest Crop Progress report by the Department of Agriculture (USDA). This amounts to a little less than half of the normal 66% typically planted by that date.

AccuWeather is estimating that only 45% will be planted Monday, May 20, when the USDA issues the next edition of its crop progress report.

If farmers are unable to plant corn in time, they are forced to use a shorter-season variety of the crop, which typically produces fewer kernels overall.

Although there is a possibility of a yield loss of about 4-6% of the corn, impacts to consumers will likely be minimal. Shortfalls would need to be in the 10-20% range for it to notably impact customers. However, cattle ranchers might have to spend more this year to feed their livestock.

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This is becoming an increasing nuisance for corn farmers. A reduction in the overall corn yield will likely drive prices little higher, but farmers could see a slight increase in profits as a result.

The 2018 corn crop yielded 14.3 billion bushels and USDA officials, in a report released this winter, expected the corn industry to far exceed last year's output and produce 15 billion bushels this year -- a prospect that looks to be increasingly unlikely at this point. AccuWeather meteorologists estimate the 2019 corn crop will yield between 14.1 to 14.4 billion bushels.

As previously reported in an earlier AccuWeather analysis, Illinois, Minnesota, Indiana and South Dakota are all significantly behind schedule, according to AccuWeather meteorologists who have analyzed the data, and they aren't expected to catch up.

Illinois had only planted 11% of its corn by May 13 compared to 88% on May 13, 2018, according to data from the latest Crop Progress issued by the (USDA).

Illinois produces the second-highest amount of corn in the nation behind Iowa.

All of the 18 states listed in the most recent USDA Crop Progress report remain below their 2014-2018 average for corn planted, though Texas seems to be catching up.

More wet weather is expected to come this weekend and Tuesday into Wednesday next week to the Midwest, including flooding downpours, hail and possible tornadoes. The storms bring with them the risk of flooding from along urban and small streams to major rivers in the Central states.

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