Late Planting Considerations for Corn
Its not a topic we were hoping to have to be discussing. But here we are, end of May, and its time for that talk. Late planting considerations. We’ve pulled info from some great sources, Pioneer, Purdue, AgriPulse, Wisconsin, and University of Nebraska, to hopefully give you a helpful guide to options for late plant, and what might work best for your situation. We do want to emphasize something early and often: This is just a guide. Your best bet is to talk to your crop insurance agent about your specific situation. Let’s get started.
To get started, lets look at where we are at. Final insurance date for corn is May 25th, with late plant running until June 14th. Soybean final plant date is June 10th in Nebraska and June 15th in Kansas with late plant running until July 5th and July 10th respectively. Since we do have time on the soybean side of things, this article will focus on corn and what options we have moving forward. As of May 19th, Kansas was reported at 61% of corn planted compared to a 5-year average of 80%. Nebraska was 70% planted compared to a 5-year average of 86%. Nationwide, we are looking at corn planting at 49% complete compared to normally 80% complete. While we’ve been hearing these numbers leading up to this day, its finally hitting home. This short fall in acres planted will have a dramatic impact on average nationwide yields and crop prices with a lot of acres eligible for prevented plant. States like Indiana and Ohio have less than 15% planted, compared to a normal of 70%. These states alone will have several million acres available for prevented plant. AgriPulse estimates that the eligible prevented plant acres could exceed 10 million acres and could be the largest on record.
So, are you eligible for Prevented Plant?
You are eligible if you have a revenue or yield protection policy. If you have Area Risk Protection, you are likely not eligible. Adjusters will look to see that your neighbors have also been kept from planting. Its helpful to be able to produce records for your applied fertilizer and chemical and seed showing intent to plant. Prevent plant will get you 55% of your final guarantee for corn. If you are unable to plant, and decide you will not plant during the late plant period, your insurance must be notified within 72 hours of final planting date, May 25th. Some insurance agencies are stricter on this policy, others require 72 hours after the last field you plant anytime during the late plant period. In any case, talk to your insurance agent to learn the policy applicable to you. Some may allow you to do prevented plant any time in the late planting window. Others may suggest applying for prevent plant now even if you are unsure if you will be using it. Talk to your agency for more specific details.
What are some of my options after this planting deadline?
Option 1: Plant during the late plant period
Your coverage will decrease by 1% per day for 25 days. You are not obligated to plant after this date and are eligible for prevented plant on those acres. But, if you do plant during that period, you are no longer eligible fore prevented plant on those acres. Take some time to calculate out what you think you can yield during this time period to see if it’s a viable option. Check out this table from Iowa State covering % of total grain yield for different maturities and planting dates.
Option 2: Don’t plant and take prevented plant.
This does have some restrictions. You can’t plant another insured crop on these acres. You could leave the ground idle, or plant a cover crop. However, you are not able to graze or bale the cover crop until sometime in November without penalty. Another option is to plant another crop on the acres but don’t insure it. With the current markets, prevented plant may be a viable option this year according to the Wisconsin State Farmer. They suggest calculating out what the projected revenue from your prevented plant acres might be. As an example:
Spring insurance is around $4, and assuming a historical yield of 200 bushels per acre, at 75% insurance coverage, our “normal” revenue would be $600. Taking the 55% coverage associated with prevented plant, that would give us a projected PP coverage of $330 per acre. While this isn’t outstanding, it is guaranteed money and should be compared against reduced yield, or revenue from another crop. (Particularly if soybean prices drop)
Option 3: Switch to beans and plant before the late planting period
If you do switch to soybeans on those acres, you have until June 15th to get them in the ground with full coverage. You will not get a prevent plant payment on this. This may be an attractive option to many producers but there are some considerations to make. With this much of the nation behind in planting, its possible many acres will get switched over to soybeans. Prices are already low, but this influx of acres may drive down prices even more. Do some rough calculations to check where you would stand with a “normal” stand of soybeans and lower market prices vs prevented plant payment on corn.
The University of Nebraska explained this situation and offers some options:
“On May 21, 2019 news stories suggested that the administration is considering a $2 per bushel soybean payment and a $0.04 per bushel corn payment. If this news turns out to be true, and the payment is linked to acreage, then expect market prices to adjust accordingly. The substantially higher soybean payment over the corn payment can result in producers who are having difficulty planting corn to shift acres to soybeans. This would further drop the soybean market price due to additional production, while possibly providing support to the corn market. If you can shift acres from corn to soybeans and are considering doing this, then consider forward contracts on a portion of those new soybean acres due to the potential impacts on already large soybean stocks.”
Option 4: Make a prevent planting claim and plant a secondary insured crop after the late planting deadline
If you do this, a prevented plant payment of 35% will apply to the corn acres. You will have some additional rules to consider with soybeans planted after their final plant date. But essentially, your acres will get a yield equal to 60% of your approved yield and become part of the yield history of the field. (https://www.agweb.com/article/planting-delayed-here-are-your-prevent-plant-options/)
How big of a deal is it to plant during the late plant period?
An article by Purdue University covers this exact topic. As agronomists, we always push early planting as a causal agent of higher yields. And while this is true, there are many other factors that also impact yield. Essentially, while early plant generally will favor higher yields, its not a guarantee. Its important to think of our yield potential as relative. The actual yields we achieve are relative to that specific year which is influenced by a whole host of factors. Generally, our relative yield will decrease 0.3% to 1% a day for each day after May 1 that we don’t plant. We can usually attribute this to a shorter growing season, higher pressures of insects and disease, and a greater change of hot or dry conditions during the pollination period. However, these impacts are relative to what our overall yield potential is. If our yield potential is 250 bu/ac, delaying planting by 10 days would result in yields of 242 bushels per acre. However, if other conditions dictate that our bushel per acre maximum is 180 bushels per acre, then our 10 day delay would result in yields of 175 bushels per acre. The reduction is relative to the yield potential in any given year. All this to say that early planted corn has the potential to be greater than, equal to, or yield less than late planted corn in another yield, simply due to conditions.
The rest of the growing season could provide optimal conditions and have the potential for great yields. However, I am not a fortune teller, and we don’t know what weather in July will be. But this is your reminder of those years where you got a late crop in and it was the best corn you ever grew. I won’t guarantee that will happen, just remind you that it could be a possibility. If you are considering planting during the late planting window, look for ways to speed up your planting process. Eliminate tillage passes or even any preplant N that may need to go on. Get yourself to the field as soon as you can without “mudding” it in. There are a couple benefits of late planting. Its likely that you will have better, more uniform stand establishment with warmer soils.
A study from Pioneer studied the effects of different maturities of corn planted late. They summarized that full season hybrids will have the greatest profitability until the end of May. At that point you might want to consider switching to a shorter season. Might is the operative word, as full season plants are able to adjust their growth rates to accommodate the shorter season by reducing the number of GDU’s needed to reach maturity. Plants are more adaptable than we think, so give it serious consideration and talk it over with your seed rep before you make any decisions.
I know that this is a lot of information, and not a lot of answers, but each situation is so unique that it is really impossible to give a good blanket answer that will work for all producers. I strongly encourage you to talk to your insurance agent about prevent plant policies as well as your seed rep about any suggestions they may have for hybrid suitability for late planting. Reach out to us with any questions that you might have.