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Favorable weather has southern corn planters running 'wide-open'

Rains that last week held back spring planting throughout much of the southeastern U.S. have given way to a drying, warming trend this week that has farmers planting corn at a "wide-open" pace from Texas to Florida.

Areas of south-central Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Georgia and Florida -- where farmers are planting more corn acres this year to capitalize on bullish market conditions -- were for the most part warmer and drier in the last seven days than in the previous week, when some parts of Texas received as much as six inches of rain, reports indicate.

The warmup moved along the planting of what will be the region's largest corn crop in decades to at or beyond average pace for this week as of Monday. According to the Texas Agricultural Statistics Service, 20% of the crop has been planted in the state, compared to the previous four-year average of 15%. In Georgia, where state ag statistics service officials say corn planting just got underway in the past week, eight percent of the corn crop was planted by Monday, identical to the previous four-year average.

In parts of Mississippi, corn planting progress was around the halfway point Tuesday, according to Mississippi State University grain crops agronomist Erick Larson. Farmers' planting pace is weeks ahead of normal, Larson said Tuesday.

"Growers in the southern and central region of the Mississippi Delta, which is our most extensive cropping area, have been planting corn wide-open for the past week or more," he said. "I estimate well over 50% of our intended crop acreage may already be planted in that region. Other Mississippi cropping areas have now started planting corn as well, as soils dry and soil temperatures rise.

"This level of planting progress is two to three weeks ahead of normal."

Combined with accelerated planting progress and an increase in corn acreage in the southeast, the last week's favorable weather has shifted what was a shortage to a complete lack of seed, one farmer said Sunday in an Agriculture Online Crop Talk discussion group. delta_farmer said he'd likely be through planting his 500 acres of corn in southeastern Arkansas by Wednesday. And, he says he's not alone in his shift to more corn.

"Some around here have been planting for a week, but I think the soil temperature is just now getting right. [Saturday] at 10:00 am, the soil temp was 61 degrees at three inches [deep]," the Arkansas farmer said. "A lot of corn has been planted in Louisiana, so much so that there is no more seed available. As one newscaster stated, 'If it doesn't rain these farmers out of the field soon, it's going to look like Iowa around here and there won't be enough cotton to make a t-shirt.'"

Largely dry, warm conditions are expected to persist throughout the southeast through the end of this week, reports indicate. According to the Dow Jones Newswires, a few light scattered showers are expected through Friday, but temperatures should stay in the mid-70s to 84 degrees.

These conditions aren't just conducive to getting the region's 2007 corn crop into the ground. Combined with the accelerated planting progress underway in his area, Larson said, current weather projections are reason for optimism for the crop's early development in the southeast.

"Normally, wet soils severely restrict early spring planting progress in the mid-south, but this season, dry weather has allowed substantial early planting progress," he said. "Early planting should also enhance corn grain yield outlook as well, particularly if stand success turns out good."

Rains that last week held back spring planting throughout much of the southeastern U.S. have given way to a drying, warming trend this week that has farmers planting corn at a "wide-open" pace from Texas to Florida.

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