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Is the spring planting window closing for waterlogged Corn Belt?

Agriculture.com Staff 05/15/2009 @ 12:23pm

Farmers in Illinois -- some of whom have yet to even turn a wheel yet this spring -- are starting to feel like the Curse of the Billy Goat is affecting more than just the Chicago Cubs.

"Mother Nature, you win. I'm declaring this year the 'Year of the Cubs,'" says Agriculture Online Marketing Talk member illinois993243. "We'll make a good show and get it planted to something in the end, but we'll get swept in the first series."

He's just one farmer who's facing severe planting setbacks because of ongoing wet weather -- some say the worst spring planting weather in more than three decades. But, it's not necessarily because of the volume of rain or severity of storms, illinois993243 adds. It's often come in torturously smaller amounts, just frequently enough to keep fields just wet enough to keep the planters from rolling.

"It isn't like it has rained any 4-inch rains here, but it is every 4 or 5 days since the beginning of April," he says. "Lots of buried 4-wheelers and self-propelled sprayers."

That's been exactly the case in the Monticello, Illinois, area, where certified crop adviser Tim Smith says wet conditions have plagued farmers "for the last 2 months.

"Some fields dry up and allow a little fieldwork to be done between rains, and in some areas, the fields have not dried adequately to allow any work to be done," says the Cropsmith, Inc., agronomist and Crop Tech Tour CCA Correspondent. "We are behind in planting corn and almost no soybeans have been planted in central Illinois."

Just since Wednesday, up to 3 inches of rain has fallen in parts of the eastern Corn Belt, according to QT Weather ag meteorlogist Allen Motew. Though the rain is seen ending by early next week, it likely will be replaced by a system of cooler but drier conditions, with temperatures warming as next week progresses.

"At mid-week, the wettest areas of Illinois and Indiana will see dry and warm conditions while Michigan and Wisconsin have the risk of spotty showers," Motew says. "Warmer and dry weather crosses Illinois and Indiana but there will be a risk of scattered to isolated showers, too, from Nebraska to Ohio Thursday and Friday."

That makes next week a big opportunity for many farmers who have some -- or all -- fields left to plant, as another wetter system will begin to move into the Midwest during Memorial day week. "A 'sub-tropical' feature then forms over the Gulf of Mexico and moves northward into the Mississippi Valley, spreading moisture as far north as the southern Corn Belt...while another cool front approaches from the northwest, also increasing the rain chances."

"The planting window will open for many eastern Belt farmers next week who are struggling to get their crops going, but all will not be perfect over the next 10 days to 2 weeks."

Farmers in Illinois -- some of whom have yet to even turn a wheel yet this spring -- are starting to feel like the Curse of the Billy Goat is affecting more than just the Chicago Cubs.

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