Central Illinois farmers are still waiting for fields to become fit for planting. (Photo courtesy National Corn Growers Association)
By Carrie Muehling
EMDEN – Rain continues to keep Central Illinois farmers out of the fields in a stark contrast to last year’s spring.
“I typically don’t start planting corn until about this time anyway. Usually I like to have all my corn planted by the end of April, but it’s not an emergency if it doesn’t happen. Certainly want to have it done in the first half of May. After that you start taking yield penalties as the growing season shortens up,” said Kent Kleinschmidt, a farmer from Emden, Ill. and member of the Illinois Corn Marketing Board.
Just one percent of the corn crop in Illinois has been planted, and work is occurring mostly in the southern part of the state. Last year, 38 percent of the corn had already gone into the ground and many farmers even in Central Illinois were already finished and had moved on to soybeans. The five-year average for corn planted this week is 12 percent.
Growing corn depends more on heat, while soybeans depend more on the length of day and amount of sunlight. Corn needs sunshine and heat to grow, so the later it is planted, the less opportunity there is to get heat units throughout the summer. Kleinschmidt cited 2009 as a prime example. That year, farmers planted late, experienced a cool and cloudy summer, and struggled with harvest. Many finished in December or later and still had to dry down the crop after bringing it out of the field.
Kleinschmidt said crop prices are still very good, although lower than last year, when the drought drove prices higher. He said if the rain pattern continues, corn prices will likely move higher on some planting concerns.
While the drought is over in Illinois with 95 percent of the topsoil moisture rated adequate or surplus and 79 percent of the subsoil moisture in those categories this week, the Western Corn Belt still has not recovered from the drought. Kleinschmidt said some farmers were running irrigators in western states this winter trying to get the topsoil recharged, which is unheard of in years past.
Kleinschmidt said the Illinois Corn Marketing Board continues to work on infrastructure concerns, especially upgrades to locks and dams on the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers. Last year’s drought brought attention back to infrastructure and its importance, not only for farmers, but also for other industries that use the river for transportation.
Carrie Muehling can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.