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Running way behind

Jeff Caldwell 04/18/2011 @ 3:28pm Multimedia Editor for Agriculture.com and Successful Farming magazine.

A year ago this week, farmers in the Corn Belt were off and running on what would be for many a quick, painless spring planting season. What a difference a year can make.

Corn planting progress is way behind where it was a year ago, with the "I" states -- Iowa, Illinois and Indiana -- seeing only single-digit planting progress compared to double-digit strides last year at this time, according to Monday's USDA Crop Progress report.

In Iowa, only 2% of the crop is planted compared to 16% last year at this time, while 2% and 9% of the Indiana and Illinois crops are planted, compared to 16% and 29% a year ago, respectively. According to Monday's report, farmers in Minnesota -- where measurable snow fell over the weekend -- have yet to get started planting. A year ago, 11% of that state's corn crop was in the ground.

The planting delays are starting to cause some farmers to worry about whether they'll be able to make up the lost time when conditions improve. Agriculture.com Marketing Talk member highyields says the planting window's already getting tight in his area of southeastern Nebraska, and it doesn't look to be easing in the near future.

"We are at the 18th of April and another rain event is another 5 days, and then we are looking at the last week of April.  Another rain event and we are into May. It's time to get concerned," he says. "Not all areas around me are as wet as we are...We have all the springs and tiles are running. It is WET here."

While it's cool temperatures and moisture that's keeping farmers from getting the Midwest corn crop planted, it's the opposite set of conditions that continues to hammer the Plains wheat crop, leading many farmers to ponder abandoning the crop and resorting to another crop.

In Kansas, 42% of the wheat crop is in poor to very-poor condition, and 69% of the Oklahoma crop and 68% of the Texas crop are in the same shape. Overall, 38% of the nation's wheat is in poor to very-poor shape compared to just 6% of the crop rated in those categories a year ago. On the other end of the spectrum, 36% of the crop's in good to excellent condition this week. Last year at this time, 69% of the nation's wheat was rated in those 2 categories.

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