May 10, 2022

2022 U.S. Corn Acreage Could Decline, Yields Could be at Risk

Author: Michael Cordonnier/Soybean & Corn Advisor, Inc.

Corn Acreage - The 2022 U.S. corn acreage continues to be in doubt. Several weeks ago, I estimated that U.S. farmers would plant 90.5 million acres of corn, but I think that number could be too high. My estimate this week is that farmers will plant 90.0 million acres of corn, but that could change as well depending on the future conditions in the northwestern Corn Belt.

The biggest obstacle to corn planting this year will probably be in the far northwestern Corn Belt especially North Dakota, South Dakota, and Minnesota. In the 2022 March Prospective Planting Report, North Dakota was estimated to plant 3,600,000 acres of corn, South Dakota was estimated at 6,200,000 acres, and Minnesota was estimated at 7,800,000 acres.

In North Dakota 1% of the corn has been planted compared to 33% last year and 18% average, so it is possible that some the farmers in the state will not be able to plant all their corn before the insurance date. The final corn planting date for crop insurance in North Dakota is May 25th for most of the state and May 31st for several counties in the southeastern corner of the state.

Before they reach the insurance date, farmers may try to switch to shorter season hybrids if they can find the seed. If they cannot plant the corn by those dates, farmers might still plant corn if they think they will only miss it by a few days. They may also opt for prevent plant or decide to switch to soybeans. The final soybean planting date for crop insurance in North Dakota is June 10th.

Corn Yield - The 2022 U.S. corn yield was lowered 1.5 bu/ac this week to 177.0 bu/ac and I have a neutral to lower bias going forward. The U.S. corn crop is going to be planted late, how late is yet to be determined. Corn yields generally decline when planting is delayed due to factors such as: a shorter growing season, lower leaf area when sunlight is at its maximum on June 21st, longer exposure to insects and diseases, and a higher risk of hot and dry conditions during pollination.

The yield potential for corn planted on May 15th in Iowa and Illinois is approximately 95%. If the corn is planted on May 20th, the yield potential is approximately 92%. The corn yield potential declines about 0.3% per day for each day planting is delayed in early May. That increases to about 1% per day at the end of May. The planting date is important, but other in-season factors can affect the corn yield more than the planting date.

Of all the risk factors for the corn this growing season, the weather during pollination is the most important by far. The corn pollination this year is going to be later than normal and in a tighter window than normal. Instead of the corn pollinating in early to mid-July, the corn this year will pollinate 1-2 weeks later than normal in mid to late July. The latest planted corn may pollinate 2-3 weeks later than normal, and the later the corn pollinates, the greater the risk of hot and dry conditions during pollination.

Another factor this year is going to be a tight pollination window. Once the weather turns suitable for planting, every farmer in the country is going to plant their corn as quickly as possible, which means that there will be a higher-than-normal percentage of the corn pollinating at the same time. Pollinating in a tight window could be beneficial or detrimental depending on the weather during pollination. It goes without saying, that the risk level would be lower if pollination was spread out over a longer period.