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Planting at a soaked standstill

Jeff Caldwell 04/25/2011 @ 3:52pm Multimedia Editor for Agriculture.com and Successful Farming magazine.

Mother Nature didn't let Corn Belt farmers get much done last week, and USDA confirmed it Monday in its weekly Crop Progress report that shows, nationwide, U.S. farmers are way behind the normal planting pace.

As of Sunday, only 9% of the nation's corn crop is in the ground, a 2% rise from a week ago and well off the 23% average pace for this week of the year, according to Monday's report. Most notable in Monday's numbers are the progress levels for the heart of the Corn Belt; 10% of the Illinois crop is in the ground and only 3% of the Iowa crop is planted and 1% of Ohio's corn is in, all up 1% from a week ago. Two percent of Indiana's crop is planted, unchanged from last week. Five percent of Nebraska's crop is in the ground, up 2% from a week ago. Those numbers are all 10% to 15% behind the normal pace.

The national planting figure, 9%, makes this spring the 3rd-slowest planting pace on record, according to Freese-Notis Weather, Inc., meteorologist Craig Solberg. And, that's not expected to change much soon, he says.

"While we will see an end to the deluges of rain by Thursday, any sort of exceptionally dry and warm weather pattern for the Midwest is still not in the forecast. Rain will be seen again for the end of the week, and another system is slated for about May 4. Neither system looks capable of producing heavy rain, but it will not take much to keep soils in the southeastern half of the Corn Belt water-logged," Solberg says. "The best hope for any fieldwork will be in western areas, but with widespread rain there the next 48 hours, rain chances again at the end of the week, and very cool conditions continuing (the first full week of May will be quite cool), progress there will be slow and a lot of farmers will probably choose to just wait for better weather to hopefully arrive."

These numbers probably come as little shock to farmers waiting on warmer, drier weather. Now, some say because of how long the cool, wet weather's persisted, they're better off now having missed earlier planting windows.

"Took soil temps this morning and it was 42 degrees. My neighbor planted corn the first week of April and I haven't seen anything yet by just driving along the road," says Agriculture.com Marketing Talk member and eastern Nebraska farmer highyields. "We haven't planted any yet. I don't know who's better off. These are some of the coldest temps the corn crop has seen in a long time for this long. Last year we got the first corn out of the ground, then it got cold and wet. The last time we had it like this was the late 90s, and we lost a few thousand plants per acre."

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