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How fast can corn be planted?

How fast can corn be planted? After watching corn planting progress this year, it is clear that growers can cover a lot of ground fast. Most of the corn crop in the 18 official corn states was planted in five weeks.

But has corn planting actually occurred at a faster rate than in previous years?  

Darrel Good and Scott Irwin at the University of Illinois researched this very question. They first considered the pace of planting that occurred on a week for peak corn planting in Indiana, Illinois and Iowa. The pair saw no trend towards a larger percentage of crop planted on the peak week from 1960 to 2011.

So Good and Irwin expanded their research to look at planting progress per day of suitable fieldwork. A suitable fieldwork day was determined from USDA’s weekly progress reports. They also limited the research to Illinois.

The results: Yes, Illinois growers are planting more corn per day than four decades ago.

“The bottom line is that farmers in Illinois can now plant about 15-20% more acres of corn per suitable field day than they could in the 1970s,” states the report from Good and Irwin. “This increase is likely due to improvements in planter technology and increases in the average size of planters.

“The results also indicate that while more corn acres in Illinois were planted per day from 1970 through 2011, there has been only a very small trend increase in the percentage of the crop planted per day," the report continues. "Taken together, these results suggest that planting speed has adjusted at about the same rate as the increase of corn acres in Illinois.”

To read the full report, visit http://www.farmdocdaily.illinois.edu/2011/06/corn_planting_speed_revisited.html.

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