Iowa State University economist Robert Wisner notes the unusually late snow melt in Iowa and other states, along with recent rains across the Midwest, have caused uneasiness about possible planting delays this spring. So far, he says, this spring is a sharp contrast to a year ago when dry soils and drought forecasts led to unusually early plantings of both corn and soybean.

Dr. Wisner points out, however, that it really is too early in the season to predict the impact of any planting delays. Normally by mid-April, only 5 percent of the nation’s corn crop is planted. Last year at this time, an estimated 9 percent of the U.S. corn crop was planted by that time.

Dr. Wisner has studied records from other recent years during which wet spring weather delayed planting. In four of these five years, he says, a wet spring was followed by additional weather problems later in the season that contributed strongly to low yields. For example, 1974 included a mid-to-late summer drought and a Labor Day frost in the northern Corn Belt. The spring of 1983 was followed by a summer drought. In 1993, cool and wet conditions continued through the growing season, causing extreme record western Corn Belt flooding, disease and other problems for both corn and soybeans. In 1995, drought followed delayed plantings in some southern parts of the Midwest.

The year 1995 also was accompanied by a 10-percent acreage set-aside requirement in the federal farm programs, along with the 0/92 program that encouraged farmers to abandon land with low yield potential. While these data indicate there has been a strong tendency to associate serious planting delays with low U.S. yields, it is too early to read mid-April planting delays as a forerunner of similar problems this year. Weather and planting progress in the next three to four weeks could play major roles in determining eventual yields and market prices for corn.