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Iowa may plant fewer corn acres

By Staff | Apr 2, 2010

“Remember that the USDA survey was conducted around the first of March, when the effects of the late fall made it seem like farmers would be running behind this spring.”

U.S. corn growers intend to plant 88.8 million acres of corn in 2010, up 3 percent from both last year and 2008.

However, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s March 31 prospective plantings report projects a large decease of 200,000 corn acres in Iowa. This may not hold true, however, say Iowa corn industry leaders.

“I’m amazed at how quickly the winter left and spring came,” said Tim Burrack, chair of the Iowa Corn Promotion Board and a corn grower from northeast Iowa near Arlington. “You have to remember that the USDA survey was conducted around the first of March, when the effects of the late fall made it seem like farmers would be running behind this spring with tillage and fertilizer applications. Weather conditions looked much different than they do now.”

Burrack, who plans to plant 160 more acres of corn this year than last, noted that fieldwork is progressing quickly east of Interstate 35.

Farmers are also catching up quickly on fieldwork in southwest Iowa, according to Kevin Ross, an Iowa Corn Growers Association board member, who lives northeast of Council Bluffs. Combines were running in late March to harvest the corn that remained in the fields all winter.

“The weather has shaped up a lot faster than anyone thought it would,” said Ross, who plans to stick with his traditional rotation and plant two-thirds of his acres to corn and one third to soybeans this spring. “I don’t think the crop was hurt too badly by being left in the field. The corn is three to four points drier now compared to late November and early December, there was minimal damage from wildlife, and the condition of the crop coming off the field is very good.”

Time will tell

Both Burrack and Ross agree that the economics on the 2010 crop currently favor corn over soybeans on their operations. “Right now you can’t generate profits as easily with soybeans as with corn,” Ross said. “With corn, you get a more consistent crop and more reliable yields.”

Corn yields have maintained in a strong upward trend in recent years. Iowa’s corn yields increased 11 bushels per acre from 2008 to 2009, according to the ICGA.

As the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposes to increase the maximum amount of ethanol that can be blended into gasoline from 10 percent to 15 percent, this will offer more options for Iowa corn growers to market their crop, Ross said.

“Getting E15 approved is good not just for U.S. farmers, but for everyone, because it’s important for energy security and cleaner air.”

Although time will tell what will happen with both the E15 standard and the 2010 corn crop in Iowa, expected corn acreage appears to be up in many states due to reduced winter wheat acreage.

Acreage increases of 300,000 or more are expected in Illinois, Kansas, Missouri and Ohio. According to USDA, all wheat planted is estimated at 53.8 million acres, down 9 percent from 2009.

While planting intentions give a snapshot of possible acres as of late March, the intentions could change up to 15 percent, depending on the planting season, weather and market signals, according to the ICGA, which notes that Iowa’s farmers typically harvest 97.7 percent of intended acres.

The May 15 plantings report seems to correlate far more closely to final acres planted.

“You have to remember that the March survey tracks early intentions,” Ross said. “We’ll know a lot more in a few months from now when we see what actually got planted.”

Contact Darcy Dougherty Maulsby by e-mail at yettergirl@yahoo.com.

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