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'Lousy' planting weather ahead

Jeff Caldwell 04/11/2011 @ 3:12pm Multimedia Editor for Agriculture.com and Successful Farming magazine.

If you're planting corn now, you'd better get while the getting's good.

Though farmers in parts of the central Corn Belt have gotten their planters fired up over the last few days, widespread rainfall and the threat of cooler, damp conditions from later this week on through the remainder of April could keep the planting pace sluggish for a while.

Monday's weekly USDA Crop Progress report shows corn planting has gotten underway in earnest over the last week, with 3% of the nation's crop in the ground. Farmers in Illinois have gotten a jump on the rest of the Corn Belt, with 4% of that state's crop in the ground compared to just 1% this week a year ago. Farmers in Missouri and Kansas have 10% and 5% planted, respectively.

One of the farmers who's made at least some early planting progress thus far is Doug Martin. Though he says not all farmers in his area around Mount Pulaski in central Illinois have gotten started planting, the conditions are rife for some good planting progress in the next few days. But, he's grateful for the early start.

"As usual the first day was to work out all of the bugs and make sure the planters are working like they are suppose to. With all of the technology, it takes some time to get everything working.  It can be frustrating at times, but it is well worth it when it all works. Once we got the planters set we decided to keep on planting, and covered a decent amount of ground in just a few days," Martin says. "Soil conditions are probably the best they have been in years. With a lot of the fieldwork done last fall and a lot of freeze/thaw cycles this past winter the soil is about as good as we can ask for. Some warmer temperatures and more chances of rain are predicted for this week so we will see if we can make some more progress."

The rain that could hold things up for Martin may cause a larger-scale slowdown for planting and fieldwork later this week and through the end of April, says Freese-Notis Weather, Inc., meteorologist Craig Solberg. Though the last few days have seen a handful of record-high temperatures and "very little rainfall" in some areas, the trend will turn "a lot wetter" through the remainder of this month and probably into early May, Solberg said Monday, likely throwing a wrench in any planned planting progress in the majority of the nation's midsection.

"We'll see another few days of mild weather across the nation's midsection, but things are going to be turning a lot colder for later on this week and that could be a precursor for some lousy weather that lies ahead for corn planting across a lot of the Midwest for the second half of this month," he said Monday.

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