Predicting Farmers’ Planting Decisions for the 2019 Crop Season

Posted by Steve Rao On November 05, 2018

 

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If you could predict next year’s crop season, what would you do with that information? You’d probably use it to make decisions around your agribusiness’ overall strategy, marketing outreach efforts, and sales goals.

While you don’t have a crystal ball, you have the next best thing at your disposal: data.

(Note: This article is part of the "Agricultural Business" series. Click here  to read the free guide.)

Growers are making their decisions for 2019 right now. They’re looking at input purchases and contracting for their crops at harvest. They’ll continue doing so for the next five months.

If you want a winning outcome, then you’ll have to start looking to the future to make decisions. That’s where good data can help.

Earlier this year, we released in-season cropping data to provide actionable knowledge about what’s growing this year. Now we’ve turned our attention to the future: 2019 planting decisions.

We’ve built a statistical model to predict what any given grower will plant next year on a field-level, pulling together over ten years of cropping and rotation data, as well as crop prices. This helps us predict what a grower is going to plant in 2019 – billions of dollars worth of planting decisions.

There are a lot of reports that project crop acres or bushels at the macro level. That’s not what we’re talking about here. Our predictive data goes all the way down to the field-level, a micro-level knowledge of what growers are going to plant.

Here’s what we’ve found.

The Context for Ag in 2019

We live in interesting times. 2019 will be no different.

Due to a strong demand from the Chinese market, soybean acres have been steadily gaining on corn for the last three decades. And in 2018, soybean acres (89.6 million) exceeded corn acres (89.1 million).

Corn vs. Soybean acres planted

Of course, many of the planting decisions made in 2018 were prior to the current and sudden trade war with China, which puts soybeans in the crosshairs. This led to a precipitous drop in soybean exports to China, who accounts for 60 percent of U.S. soybean exports.

Weekly U.S. soybean export sales to China

But markets have a way of adjusting. Buyers that had previously bought soybeans from Brazil are buying up large quantities of US soybeans. Grain storage stocks factor in as well.

Though we project a significant decrease in soybean plantings in 2019, the decrease is not quite as drastic as it may otherwise seem, especially when considering the sustainability and productivity improvements of crop rotation.

In addition, since wheat land has been transitioned to soybean land over the last few decades, a drop in soybean exports should lead to a spike in wheat acres farmed.

Our Predictions for 2019

Based on that context, we looked at our predictive model and, turns out, we see what you’d expect. Here are some of our aggregate predictions for the coming year:

  • 8.6 percent increase in planted corn acres
  • 9.3 percent decrease in planted soybean acres
  • 2.6 percent decrease in planted cotton acres
  • 40.3 percent increase in planted wheat acres

Of course, looking at aggregate data is only part of the picture. It helps in understanding market trends, but if you want to actionalize that information, then you’ll need to dig deeper.

Understanding a the crop mix and rotation at the field-level is vital if you want to assist growers with key planting decisions. With current market uncertainty, growers are going to be watching and waiting to make their final decisions, which means the conversations you have with them can and will have an impact.

Tools like Farm Market iD’s FieldVision and Grower Profile can help you analyze and evaluate your target farmers, their fields and anticipate their decisions. Having past, present and future data can give you an edge over your competitors in the coming year.

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