Spring planting underway

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Corn planting progress in the U.S. is nine points behind the five-year average of 14 percent, according to the USDA’s latest crop progress report. Last year, 15 percent of the corn crop had been planted by this time.

As of Monday when the report was released, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota and Wisconsin haven’t begun planting. Illinois farmers have reportedly planted 4 percent of the state’s crop 

Beginning the planting season is a struggle this year as colder, wet weather has slowed any work in the field. In the eight states where planting hasn’t started, cold, snowy weather has plagued many agricultural areas. 

According to Bob Utterback, founder of Utterback Marketing Services, Inc., the 39th latitude is the unofficial line of where crops have been planted. Anything above Terre Haute, Ind., hasn’t been planted, and below it, some crops have been planted and emerged.

“The end of April, first of May will be a more bullish time period,” he said on U.S. Farm Report. 

In Edgar County, farmers moved into their fields north, west and east of Paris but few farmers south of U.S. Route 150 are in the fields due to wet conditions. “It’s still sticky underneath,” one farmer explained.

Jim and Cole McCulloch began planting their crops Wednesday with Jim planting corn and Cole planting beans. “Cole was spraying for emergent weeds and then went right to planting,” said Kay McCulloch, noting neighbors were also spraying and working the ground before planting.

McCulloch said the soil is warm enough to begin planting. “A few neighbors started last Friday but night temps were cold and days not much better,” she explained.  She noted a few fields are still wet in a few spots but — believe it or not — there is some dust behind the planter. 

“The rain has been taken out of the forecast for Saturday and summer temperatures are expected next week,” she concluded. “Farmers can plant a lot in a week if we have warm temps. It’s time to get it in the ground.”

With the small amount of acres that have been planted, the market hasn’t reacted to this news yet. Brian Basting, commodity research analyst with Advance Trading, Inc., says there are two factors on why prices haven’t reflected the progress.

“Number one is the size of today’s equipment — how many acres a producer can plant in a very short period of time is something the markets are well aware of,” he said. “Second is probably taking a bit of the weather premium out of the market is the performance of these yields.”

Luckily, the weather pattern has shifted as April comes to a close to one more conducive for planting. Temperatures are expected to warm up to more normal temperatures 60s and 70s in the southern Midwest and 50s and 60s in the north.

“Getting to normal temperatures will be good, but the problem will still be rainfall,” says Dale Mohler, senior Accuweather agricultural meteorologist. He’s forecasting normal rainfall in the South

and near-to-above normal rainfall in the northern Midwest that will continue to cause planting delays.

“It doesn’t look like the weather gets warm enough and dry enough for a long enough period to catch planting up to its normal pace,” Mohler noted, adding that while the weather isn’t ideal for planting, it will be an improvement.

“Soil temperatures are well south of where they should be throughout the northern Corn Belt,” Mohler observed. “Soil temps of 50 degrees is the big number needed for farmers to start planting for successful germination.”

The last week in April looks the most favorable for planting with temperatures near or above normal for most of the Midwest, said Mohler. “The warmer temps will give farmers a chance to start field work as we won’t see as much rain fall either.”

The beginning of May looks even more promising with temperatures staying at normal to above normal with near to slightly below normal rainfall, making drier conditions.

For the first time this spring in many parts of the Corn Belt, soil temperatures are reaching into a range suitable for planting this week.

According to Jim Angel, Illinois state climatologist, the average date for soil to reach 50 degrees in East Central Illinois is after April 30. The average date to reach 60 degrees is approximately May 15.