Even though the late planting date for crop insurance has already passed in many states, not everyone is giving up hope on the possibility of planting corn. You still have options. You can go ahead and plant corn, take prevented planting on corn, plant soybeans, take prevented planting on soybeans, or plant cover crops. Below we take a closer look at each scenario, and provide links to useful tools so you can maximize profits this year.
Late Planting Options
Elizabeth Williams of DTNPF says that many growers across the Corn Belt are now facing tough planting decisions. As of June 6, one third of the nation’s corn had yet to be planted. What are your options at this point?
1. Go Ahead and Plant Corn
You can continue to plant corn until the end of the late-planting period, but with reduced crop insurance coverage. This time period varies by location, so talk with your crop insurance agent or visit the USDA website. If you go this route, you lose 1% of your crop insurance coverage each day and your final yield becomes part of your actual production history (APH). This has the potential to lower your revenue for future years, but might be worth it because corn prices are climbing.
If Planting Corn Late, Don’t Change Seeding Rates
Ricardo Costa of Michigan Farmer says some corn growers that are planting late might be thinking about changing their seeding rates. It’s not advised. Studies have shown that there isn’t a direct relationship between economic optimum corn population and planting dates. Planting populations will likely remain the same not matter the date they’re planted.
Soils in June will be warmer than they are in April and May. Germination and emergence will happen more quickly for late planted corn, which means that final stand may be more successful. You might even be able to reduce your seeding rates and still achieve the same desired final stand. That could save you a little money on seed costs.
2. Take Prevented Planting on Corn
If you’re considering taking prevented planting on corn, you should call your crop insurance agent right away. You have a limited amount of time to record prevented plant acres with the FSA. Keep in mind that you may not be able to take prevented planting payments on all of your acres.
You cannot take prevented planting on more acres in your crop insurance unit than acres of corn planted in the past four years. For example, you generally have a 50/50 crop rotation on 100 acres, but one year in the past four years, you planted 52 acres of corn. Even if you were planning to plant all 100 acres to corn this year, you’re only eligible for prevented planting on 52 acres.
Farmers with enterprise units have an easier time qualifying their acres for prevented planting. It’s called the 20/20 rule: the prevented planting acres must total 20% of the unit or 20 acres, whichever is less. Farmers with optional units must have at least the lesser of 20 acres or 20% of corn acres in that section for those acres to qualify.
An advantage of this option is that your APH yield history won’t be affected by the lack of corn planted on those acres. Prevented planting on corn will pay more than prevented planting on soybeans, so it’s worth it to get unplanted acres designated as corn if it’s possible.
For example, if your corn APH yield is 180 bushels per acre and you took 80% coverage in crop insurance, using the spring corn guaranteed price of $4.00 per bushel multiplied by the 55% prevented planting payment rate for corn, you would receive $317 per acre.
For soybeans, if you have a 55 bpa APH yield at 80% coverage and a guaranteed price of $9.54 per bushel, then multiply it by the 60% prevented planting payment rate for soybeans, you would receive $252 per acre.
Economists, Market Analyst Advise Prevented Planting on Corn
Amie Simpson of Brownfield Ag News reports on corn planting decisions in Indiana now that the Federal crop insurance deadline has passed. Purdue University Ag economists Jim Mintert and Michael Langemeier insist that farmers still have options. Corn growers can take prevented planting under Federal Crop Insurance, plant corn late, or switch corn acreage to soybeans. The two looked at potential returns for taking prevented planting vs. delayed planting for corn and soybeans.
“Prevented planting looks pretty attractive and so one of the challenges we face is how many acres are actually going to wind up enrolled in the prevented planting and what is the impact going to have on corn prices,” Mintert says.
The USDA will only provide MFP payments to farmers who plant, and the disaster bill does include provisions for prevented planting. Many are anxious to know what the next USDA crop progress report is going to look like.
Mark Dorenkamp of Brownfield reported on a similar advice for Minnesota corn growers. He spoke with analyst Mark Schultz with Northstar Commodity. Schultz doesn’t think a lot of corn acres will change to soybeans- farmers are better off taking prevented planting.
“The problem with the beans is you’re still at a low enough price that even if you put the beans in, you still can’t even make money.”
Soybens would have to yield at least 45 bushels per acre and increase at least 50 cents to bring in the same amount of money as prevented planting. However, the MFP might lead some farmers to plant soybeans. The administration announced an upcoming payment, but that growers wouldn’t get it if they take prevented planting. They’re trying not to influence planting decisions, but are causing more of a mess by not being very specific about MFP compensation.
3. Plant Soybeans
If planting corn and taking prevented planting on corn are no longer a viable options, consider planting soybeans. Each field is going to have different revenue possibilities, so it’s probably worth it to spend a little time running different scenarios. The University of Illinois and Iowa State University have various decision making tools that many might find helpful.
Consider Planting Soybeans “Into the Green”
Ag Update says this may be the year soybean farmers should “plant into the green,” which means no till planting soybeans into existing cover crops. The advice comes from University of Missouri Extension nutrient management specialist John Lory.
Many growers terminate their covers early in the season before planting. That way the biomass breaks down pretty easily before planting. But that’s not an option for a lot of soybean farmers this year. Lory says that he’s found through his strip trial research that planting soybeans into the green only resulted in slight yield losses.
This type of planting can be done successfully, and some growers might be considering it due to the extremely wet weather we’ve had this planting season. Before starting, you’ll need to make some adjustments to your planter and attachments. Below are a few tips:
- Don’t get too far ahead of planting with the sprayer. Only spray what you can get planted. If you spray and cannot plant, the dying vegetation does not remove moisture from the ground. It loses stem strength, falls and creates a mat on the soil. The mat will prevent sun and wind from drying the soil.
- Check planter disk openers and closing wheels to make sure they are in good condition to no-till into cover crops. Depending on cover crop conditions, you might need different styles of closing wheels.
- Planters need to be leveled for good depth control and closing wheel operation.
- Check seeding depth frequently and plant soybean deep enough to get good seed-to-soil contact and seed slot closure. Ellis suggests a 1.5-inch depth.
- Use GPS-guided equipment if you have it available. Marker tracks on older equipment may be difficult to see.
- Limit planting speed to prevent excessive row unit bounce and variable planting depth.
4. Take Prevented Planting on Soybeans
Another option is to take prevented planting on soybeans. The deadline to report prevented planting soybeans to the FSA is 15 days after the final planting date.
To calculate your PP soybean payment, multiply your APH yield times your original percent crop insurance coverage times the spring price of $9.54 times 60% for prevented planting.
5. Cover Crops
You can use leftover soybean and corn as a cover crop- but if you go with this option make sure you communicate it clearly to your crop insurance agent. You can’t return the treated soybean seeds to your dealer anyway, so why not use them as a cover on corn prevented planting ground?
Crop Insurance Reward Program for Planting Cover Crops
A newly approved program in Illinois will provide crop insurance rewards for planting cover crops says Rhiannon Branch of Brownfield Ag News. Farmers that have crop insurance and plant cover crops will be eligible for a $5 reward off their crop insurance bill next year. It’s hoped that the program will promote conservation crop systems as a means to protect cropland from poor weather conditions.
Funds for the program will come through the Risk Management Agency and applications will be open this fall. In order to participate, farmers cannot be currently participating in a state for federal cost share incentive program.
Late Planting Yield Impacts
Can we anticipate how much all of this late planting will impact yields? Emerson Nafziger of Farm Doc Daily, a publication of the University of Illinois Extension, provided some useful questions and answers about late planting. As the planting season moves on, Nafziger addresses many of the management aspects growers may be facing.
How Will Late Planting Impact Yields?
Many are wondering how much late planting corn will have an impact on yields. In Illinois at least, there isn’t any recent data to consult when we’re looking at corn planted after early June. It’s a bit of a guessing game.
In a recent paper from Iowa State [Baum et al., Agronomy Journal 111:303-313 (2018)], researchers reported yield losses of about 25% (55 bushels) by June 10, 40% (88 bushels) by June 20, and 61% (133 bushels) by June 30. So planting corn on the last insurable date (June 25) would be expected to produce about half the normal yield. There’s a good chance that yields could be better than that, but for now that’s the best guess we have.
Yield declines are expected to be less severe for soybeans, but late planted soybeans may not fully mature before the first frost in more northern areas of Illinois.
Should I Consider Planting an Early Maturing Variety?
Possibly. You should definitely consult the Corn Growing Degree Day decision support tool before making a decision. Simply select your county, planting date and hybrid maturity and the tool will project GDD accumulations throughout the season.
The outcome of all this is that reduction in GDD requirements when corn is planted late is almost always accompanied by a reduction in yield. Still, if the crop ends up needing fewer GDD to mature, it’s better that this come with a longer-season hybrid than with a shorter-season hybrid, which might mature earlier but at even more cost to yield. Adding to this is the fact that 100-day RM or shorter hybrids were not really developed to be planted in Illinois, and they may not bear up very well under Illinois conditions when planted late.
With soybeans, there is usually very little need to change varieties to earlier maturity in Illinois, because soybean flowering responds to photoperiod, and typical varieties will flower at about the same time if planted in the second half of June.
Are Good Yields a Possibility At All?
In Illinois this year, trendline yields for corn are 190 bushels per acre, and 67 bushels per acre for soybeans. Even with absolutely perfect growing conditions from now on, the absolute best we could hope for at this point is 90% of the trendline yields.
It’s going to be another tough year. Probably even more so than last. With multiple ongoing trade conflicts and an extremely late planting season, US corn and soybean farmers will be making a lot of tough decisions in the upcoming weeks. Utilize all the tools available to maximize your profits in this late planting season.
In Ag Nook’s related article titled, “Help is Coming for Prevented Planting“, read how widespread unplanted acres will be in 2019 and what the federal government has agreed to do about it.