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Abnormally wet spring delays Midwest planting

By
Jessie Higgins
Fields are still too wet to plant across the Midwest, leaving farmers monitoring the forecasts in hopes of dry weather in the coming weeks. Photo by Jessie Higgins/UPI
Fields are still too wet to plant across the Midwest, leaving farmers monitoring the forecasts in hopes of dry weather in the coming weeks. Photo by Jessie Higgins/UPI

EVANSVILLE, Ind., April 19 (UPI) -- An abnormally wet spring, that includes extensive flooding in some areas, has pushed planting season across the Midwest behind schedule. But farmers aren't panicking yet.

Planting generally begins in mid-April. That means it would have been underway in most areas now. But, as of mid-week, no corn had been planted in Iowa, Nebraska, or North and South Dakota, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Statistics Service. Other key Midwest growing states also were behind.

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"From a calendar standpoint, now is about the time our part of the state -- central Illinois -- will plant," said Rod Weinzierl, the executive director of the Illinois Corn Growers Association. "We do have a past board member down in southern Illinois who does have corn in the ground. But most people do not -- like 99 percent of people."

Farmers still have about three weeks to get their crops in the ground before any impact on their fall harvest, agriculture experts say. But this delay has farmers across the region anxiously monitoring forecasts, hoping that a dry spell will enable planting within that time frame.

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In central Illinois, forecasts indicate that dry spell might arrive next week, Weinzierl said. But neighboring states, like Indiana, and the flood-ravaged states of Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota are looking at longer waits.

"I'm guessing planting might start at the very end of April," said Kent Thiesse, the senior agriculture loan officer at Minnstar Bank in Minnesota. "In some places, it will probably be pushed back into May."

Farmers need dry weather to plant for more than one reason, said Thiesse, a former University of Minnesota Extension educator. To start, the fields must be dry enough to drive their tractors through without getting stuck. In addition, corn and soybeans need sufficiently dry soil to germinate properly.

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Though planting is behind schedule, farmers still have time to get their crops in the ground without the delay affecting fall harvest yields.

"University data says that if you get it in the ground by about May 10, there won't be an impact," Weinzierl said. "Now, if we're not planting in two weeks, that's when we'll start to get more stirred up."

It's the same story across much of the Midwest, apart from the areas hardest hit by historic the mid-March floods that swept through Nebraska and parts of South Dakota and Iowa. Fields in many of those areas still are flooded, making it increasingly unlikely that farmers will be able to plant at all this season.

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"The reality is that with open breeches and river levels where they are, water is still coming in," Jeff Jorgenson, a corn and soy grower in western Iowa, said in a text message. "Until [the] breeches are plugged or [the] river goes down, we will have to wait."

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