Corn planting figures surprise most analysts

Corn plantings beat most expectations.
Corn plantings beat most expectations.
Total acreage planted to corn reached 87 million acres in 2009, the second-largest corn acreage in more than 60 years, behind 2007, according to Tuesday's report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Statistics Service.

Overall, farmers planted 320.9 million acres to principal crops in 2009, down 3.9 million acres from last year, but 3.9 million acres more than farmers indicated in the March 2009 Prospective Plantings report.

The figures were a shock to the grain and oilseed markets, which experienced a sharp sell-off to lower prices on Tuesday.

But one market analyst, called Lanworth, said its satellite-based planting estimates beat other analysts who were expecting much lower yields.

"The market is now watching to see if the 3.5 million acre increase in the total area planted to corn and soybeans forecasted by the USDA actually materializes over the course of the year," said Nicholas Kouchoukos, Lanworth's vice president of information services.

With late planting decisions still to be made on a half-million acres, Tuesday's report sets the stage for important yield forecasts through the growing and harvest season as the USDA settles on a final production number in January, Kouchoukos said.

Lanworth's uses satellite imaging, field sampling and computer models of soil conditions, farming practices, weather and many other factors, rather than surveys of farmers to make its projections.