It may seem late, but think back to 2011

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With the calendar showing May 22nd , and less than 20% of the corn south of the 402 planted, and today’s weather forecast calling for the chance of further rains and maybe even some severe thunderstorms, there are likely more than a few growers trying hard to stay calm, cool and collected.   You want nothing more than to be in your fields, planting your crops, getting the biggest variable to your cropping success behind you.

During these times, every thought imaginable is running through your head including the biggies:  How long can I wait?  What is the impact on my yield?  When should I start to switch maturities and/or crops? 

As you ponder these topics, here are a few facts that you may or may not have already considered, but should:

1)     2011 was one of the most “delayed” springs on record.  Most wheat did not get nitrogen until May and some not until June. Almost 60% of the corn acres were planted after June 1st that year.  Ontario’s average corn yield that year was 152 bu./ac., just 1 bushel short of the 153 bu. average yield of the record early spring of 2012.

2)    As you can see in the chart below, 456 Growing Degree Days and 693 Corn Heat Units had been accumulated by June 5, 2011, the date when a lot of local corn was being planted.  To date this year, there is only 234 GDD’s and 344 chu’s that have accumulated.  This is an indicator of how slow Mother Nature was this year in transitioning from winter into spring, but it also tells us that we have not missed much important growing weather yet.  And since Mother Nature often has a way of balancing out the weather over the year, we can hope that the weather that has not yet happened will happen sometime during the growing season to come.

Period of Weather Measured

Precip.

GDD’s

CHU’s

April   15/2014 thru May 20/2014

116 mm.

234

344

April 15/2011 thru May 20/2011 (very late)

199.2   mm

227

341

April 15/2011 thru June 5/2011 (very late)

290.4   mm

456

693

April 15/2012 thru May 20/2012 (very early)

83.6   mm

308

476

April 15/2013 thru May 20/2013 (mixed)

82.8   mm

295

457

 

3)    2011 was a year where switching maturities was a challenge due to tight seed supplies.  This year, that is not the case with ample supplies of earlier maturity hybrids available.

4)    Once soils are fit, corn acres can be planted in very short order – days – with the equipment employed by today’s farmers.

5)    Many producers have already switched some of their normal rotation corn acres to soys due to economics, and with winter kill damage in wheat expected to further contribute to this increased soy acreage, there are a lot of crop rotation systems ‘out of whack’.  Switching more corn to soys will only accentuate a problem that can take years to correct. The conundrum:  Pay a little price now vs. pay a lot later.  At this point, the only serious consideration should be switching your aggressively long maturing hybrids for more realistic, mid-season hybrids.

6)    If you are a hockey fan, you’ll perhaps know that the Montreal Canadiens have not made it this far in the playoffs since 1993 when they unexpectedly won the Stanley Cup.  A fringe benefit of this delayed spring is that you are able to watch their cup run if you are a Habs fan, or, further bemoan the fact that you are a Leafs fan.  J

In conclusion:

While it may seem like May is almost over and “the sky is falling on corn plantings”, the reality is that it is only May the 21st and the forecast after today is for dry conditions into next week and temperatures in the 80’s by the weekend.  More importantly, the longer term forecast indicates the cool, wet weather is behind us.   With a little patience, corn planting shall resume in earnest during the month of May, and all shall be well with life in farming.  Hang in there!!