Wet weather delays corn planting; are we worried yet?

News-DemocratApril 25, 2013 

What a difference a year makes.

This time last year most of the region's corn, if not all, was already planted.

This year, wet, cool weather and muddy fields have resulted in only about 4 percent of the corn crop nationwide to be planted.

"It's good and bad," said Tom Jett of the Illinois Farm Bureau St. Clair/Madison Office, referring to the heavy spring rains. "We needed the groundwater, but some of the rain came down too fast to really recharge the groundwater as we needed it to, but, we do welcome the moisture."

On April 21 last year, 56 percent of the state's corn crop was in the ground. This year, about 1 percent was in the ground on the same date, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The average percentage is 24 by the same date.

Of the 18 states, including Illinois, that account for 92 percent of the nation's corn-growing acreage, only 4 percent of the 97.28 million acres of corn has been planted, compared with 26 percent planted for the same time frame last year.

"Yes, it would be nice to plant corn, but, it's too early to panic," said Freeburg farmer David Biver. "Corn planted a month from now could do very well, but corn planted in June, that's not good. I'd love to have corn planted right now, but Mother Nature and the good Lord won't allow me to do that right now."

Last year, Biver and other local farmers were planting corn in the first week of April.

"By now, we probably had all the corn in the ground," Biver said. "Of course, that didn't turn out so well, it turned out to be very dry. It's wetter than normal this year. Every year is different and that comes with the territory. That's the nature of the beast, but, that's OK, I'm willing to do battle with the beast."

According to the National Weather Service, the metro-east region has received between 6 and 10 inches of rain in the past 30 days. The average rainfall for the month of April is 3.69 inches with 11.65 inches of precipitation received by this point in the year.

Last spring brought 12.33 inches of rain. So far this season - March and April - the region has received 8.64 inches of rain, and April isn't over, yet. Meteorologists are forecasting a 60 percent chance of rain Friday and a 30 percent chance Saturday.

"It's still April, so, we're not behind yet," Jett said. "But, last year, there was corn in the ground by now. Nobody seems too worried about it yet, but, it's time. It can warm up and dry out now. It will take at least a week to dry out enough to even be able to get out into the fields."

Sunday is predicted to be near 70 under mostly sunny skies with warmer temperatures moving in next week.

The ideal window to have corn planted is between May 10 and May 15, Biver said. The later the corn is planted, the less potential that crop has and the higher chance the farmer will see a reduction in yields.

"Yes, you can still have a good yield, but, the potential is not there, the odds are against you," he said.

"As you get past that optimal date, you are losing potential. We still have plenty of good potential. It's only April 25. If it gets to be May 25, then I'll start to worry. If it's June 25 and we still haven't planted, the whole county will be up in arms."

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