Ag Notes

It Still Takes Two Weeks to Plant the American Corn Crop


Most people take for granted that the farmers can plant their crops way faster today than ever before. While it is true today’s equipment can plant a single acre of corn much faster, it still takes about the same amount of time to plant the whole crop.

It’s an illusion and pretty simple math says University of Illinois Agricultural Economist Scott Irwin, "This is a situation where your eyes can deceive you. So, you drive out in the countryside and you have a friend that is a farmer. They have a big planter and can plant their individual farm, in these particular cases, clearly much faster than they used to (be able to plant them). I don’t disagree with that individual anecdotal observation. The problem is that this doesn’t necessarily add up to the whole."

Sure, the equipment can get over a single acre way faster but each piece of equipment is going over way more acres than used to be the case. Consequently, it takes about the same time to plant the whole U.S. corn crop today as it did forty-years ago says Irwin, "It is a near constant, there is some variation from year to year, but on average it looks like it takes a minimum of 14 good field days to get the U.S. corn belt planted with basically everyone able to, and willing to, run flat-out."

In 1980, for instance, Illinois farmers were able to plant about one-million acres per day. Last year, running flat-out that figure was approximately the same.