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US Corn Crop at Risk of Substantial Prevent-Plant Acreage, Gro’s Model Predicts

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Many corn farmers in the US northern Plains are being forced to decide whether to forgo planting a significant portion of their crop because of saturated soils

Corn farmers in the Dakotas and Minnesota are well behind on planting due to heavy snow, followed by rain in April and now spring flooding. Gro’s Prevent Plant Forecast Model for corn predicts these states are vulnerable to getting substantially fewer acres planted than originally intended. Farmers generally carry insurance for acreage that is prevented from being planted. 

This year’s overly wet conditions contrast with 2021, when the region instead suffered drought that depressed corn yields. In North Dakota, for example, corn yields last year slumped 24% from a year earlier. Gro’s Climate Risk Navigator, weighted to focus on North Dakota’s corn growing areas, highlights the sharp differences in Gro Drought Index readings and soil moisture levels between this year and last.  

Sodden soils this year (blue line) contrast with excessive dryness in 2021 (red line), as shown by this chart from Gro’s Climate Risk Navigator, weighted for corn-growing areas in North Dakota. This year’s wet conditions could reduce acres planted to corn.

Prevent-plant estimates are important because they have a direct effect on final production numbers. Prevent plant also can cause a shift of acreage away from corn and into soybeans, which are planted later. 

Gro’s Prevent Plant models, for both US corn and soybeans, update daily and forecast which areas of the US Midwest are likely to have planting problems because of overly wet soil. The machine learning-based models combine data on soil moisture, precipitation, soil surveys, and other variables, including USDA crop-planting progress reports, to estimate the number of acres prevented from being planted at the county and national levels well in advance of the USDA’s initial prevent-plant report in mid-August. 

US corn acreage was already slated to drop by 4% this year, the lowest level since 2019, as farmers turn to less fertilizer-intensive crops such as soybeans. Further declines in corn production will tighten the US corn balance sheet at a time when every bushel counts because of squeezed global supplies and higher prices brought on by the Russia-Ukraine war.

Only 49% of the US corn crop was planted as of May 15. That’s the slowest pace since the much wetter year of 2019 when only 30% of the crop was planted at this time. While US planting progress jumped in the past week, pockets of heavy delays are still present. 

North Dakota corn planting remains stalled at 4% compared with a 5-year average of 41%, as eastern counties in the state show some of the highest ever soil moisture readings for this time of year. In South Dakota, 31% of the corn crop is planted versus a 54% average, and in Minnesota the pace is 35% versus an average of 72%. 

The last year of significant prevent-plant corn acreage was 2019, when 8.5 million acres, or nearly 10% of the planned corn crop, wasn’t planted because of overly wet conditions.

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High Fertilizer Prices Drive US Farmers to Plant More Soy Than Corn


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