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The dust is flying: Farmers make record corn planting progress, USDA says

Agriculture.com Staff 04/19/2010 @ 2:45pm

Last week, corn planting had barely started in the Corn Belt.

Now, almost a fifth of the crop is in the ground overall, and with a warm, dry forecast for the majority of this week, farmers expect making even greater strides toward completion.

As of Sunday, 19% of the corn crop was planted, compared to 3% a week ago. Major strides were made in the heart of the Corn Belt: In Illinois, 34% of the crop is in the ground this week compared to 1% a week ago. Similar progress was made in Iowa, Missouri and Indiana. Still, states like Ohio and Nebraska remain in the single-digits, progress-wise.

The double-digit planting gains add up to the second-quickest planting pace thus far since USDA began tracking the data, according to ag meteorologist Charlie Notis of Des Moines, Iowa-based Freese-Notis Weather, Inc.

"[Last week's progress makes] this year's planting pace for April 18 the second-fastest ever, behind only 2004 but ahead of 2005 and 2006," Notis said Monday. The 16-percentage-point gain, Notis adds, eclipses the previous record for planting progress for the April 12-18 period.

"This has been the longest stretch of work we have had in the spring in more than 2 years. Some people in our area are almost done planting and some have not started yet. It all depends on how much work they had to do from last fall. With a lot of anhydrous being applied in the spring a lot of guys like to wait 5-10 days before they plant into that to reduce root burn," Martin, also an Agriculture.com Crop Tech Tour correspondent, said Monday in his blog. "This week we have another good forecast up to Friday. We have been working ground with two tractors, running two corn planters, spraying and planting trees. It looks like another busy week, but we are loving every minute of it."

But, everything's not all roses for Martin and other farmers in his area. He says the last 2 years of excess moisture is manifesting itself this year in the form of heavy soil compaction.

"The soil is not in very good shape. It seems to be hard and cloddy form all of the moisture the past two years. We have some ground that could use a little rain and some that is still too wet to work on," Martin says. "With all of the warm dry weather you would think that it would dry out, but with all of the compaction last year the ground is having a hard time doing that."

"You throw in favorable planting weather and combative outside markets, you get a very weak grain market," says GFI Agriculture manager and CME Group floor trader Scott Shellady.

But, that might not last long, with moisture expected to move into the Midwest later this week. "Watch out for a huge rain system to hit the entire Corn Belt Thursday through Sunday and another system next week," says Tim Hannagan, PFGBest.com market analyst. "This may put the planting progress on hold having a early week low by Tuesday hold and another late week rally."

But, that rain may not be all bad: For those acres that are already planted ahead of this weekend's expected rainfall event, it could be just what the crop -- and the farmers sowing that crop -- needs.

"Widespread rainfall will eventually envelope all of the Corn Belt for Friday through next weekend, certainly more than enough to stop fieldwork but rain that probably has to be considered as beneficial to moisten the topsoil again (for better seed germination) and give farmers a needed break from near non-stop fieldwork activities."

That soggy outlook isn't dampening some optimism farmers are expressing as planting season rolls on. "We have not had a good growing season since 2004, so wouldn't the law of averages mean that we are due for a nice, good growing season?" says Agriculture.com Marketing Talk member northcorn. "Me, I hope everybody gets the weather they are hoping for. What a great spring in our neck of the woods."

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Last week, corn planting had barely started in the Corn Belt.

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