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Corn Planting Inches Out of the Starting Gate -- USDA

Corn planting is off to a sluggish start, USDA officials confirmed Monday. This comes as no surprise to farmers in major corn-growing states.

As of Sunday, 2% of the nation's corn crop is in the ground; the normal planting pace by this week is 5%. Last year, farmers had 3% of the crop in the ground. Though not many were in the field yet by this time a year ago, farmers in all but one state -- Wisconsin -- had sown at least some corn by this time. Normally, farmers in Illinois have 9% of their crop planted. This year, they've yet to begin. Usually, Missouri farmers have 15% of their crop planted, and this year only 4% of it is in the ground. Farmers in Iowa, Indiana, Minnesota, and Michigan have yet to get rolling, and Ohio farmers only have 1% in the ground.

The only state in which the planting pace exceeds the previous five-year average is Kansas, where 14% of the crop is in the ground compared to the normal 8% pace. "Temperatures averaged 4 to 8 degrees above normal for a second consecutive week...The eastern portion of the state received up to 3 inches of precipitation, while the west remained dry," according to the Kansas Crop Progress report released Monday.

On the other side of the spectrum, Indiana's farmers are facing what's indicative of conditions holding up corn planting across the Corn Belt, where just enough rain continues to fall to keep the planters parked.

"Scattered, yet persistent rainfall impeded fieldwork and delayed spring planting during the week ending April 12. Increased rainfall throughout the state pushed back prospects of corn and soybean planting until the rain subsides and fields dry out. Above-average temperatures have helped green up winter wheat, pastures, and other cover crops," according to Monday's report for Indiana. "Many fields have ponded from increased rainfall making fieldwork difficult."

Though planting is just starting to inch forward in Iowa, the last few mostly dry days have allowed farmers to get much of their fertilizer applied, and any delays for that job look to be short-lived, according to the Iowa Crop Progress report released Monday.

"Wet conditions continued to slow down fieldwork in Iowa during the week ending April 12, 2015, according to the USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service. Statewide there were 2.7 days suitable for fieldwork. Parts of Iowa experienced snow during the week, and cool soil temperatures remain a concern," the report says. "After a slow start, farmers in northern Iowa continued to apply anhydrous, while applications in the southern two-thirds of the State were winding down."

Adds Iowa ag secretary Bill Northey: "The weather has allowed farmers to get some fieldwork done, and if it stays warm and dry, planters will be rolling across the state in the next few weeks."

The next few weeks will indeed be critical to getting this year's crop in the ground, like Northey says, but the next few days might be just as important. That's because forecasters see a transition to cooler-than-normal temperatures for the Midwest in the next two weeks. How dry soils are heading into that cool stretch could go a long way to determining just how much corn farmers get planted by the end of April.

"The best planting progress this week should be in the central and western Midwest. The warm conditions this week should allow soil temperatures to continue to warm across the region, but colder conditions in the six- to 15-day period will slow germination a bit, particularly in the Midwest and northeastern Plains," adds MDA Weather Services senior ag meteorologist Don Keeney.


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