After a brief stretch of dry weather midweek, rain was expected to return to parts of central and southern Indiana Friday night into Saturday (May 19 and 20), dealing another setback to farmers who have fallen significantly behind schedule in planting the state’s grain crops.
According to the latest U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Crop Progress report released Monday (May 16), Hoosier farmers had just 45 percent of the corn crop in, compared with the five-year average of 61 percent and 68 percent at this time last year.
Analysts were especially concerned about the lack of progress during the week ending May 15. With fields in many parts of the state muddy and inaccessible, only 7 percent of the crop was planted during what should have been one of the busiest weeks of the season.
Cloudy, rainy month
“The rains have certainly been a problem,” said Bob Nielsen, Purdue Extension corn specialist. “A late start doesn’t necessarily mean lower yields, but we have to hope the weather starts to cooperate soon.”
Further delays could force some farmers to switch to shorter-season hybrids, which could be less productive than full-season varieties, or plant soybeans instead, Nielsen said.
The Indiana State Climate Office, based at Purdue, said precipitation has been above normal for the past month in nearly all parts of the state, especially in southern counties. And there have been few warm, sunny days to help dry out rain-soaked fields.
“It’s cold and wet and the farmers are understandably stressed,” said Amanda Mosiman, Extension educator in Warrick County.
Don Biehle, superintendent of the Southeast Purdue Agricultural Center in Butlerville, said about a quarter-inch of rain fell there Tuesday (May 17).
“That doesn’t sound like a lot, but the soil is saturated and we still don’t have the sun and warmer temperatures to dry out the soil,” he said.
Signs of nitrogen deficiency
David Osborne, Extension educator in Ripley County, said only about 10 percent of the corn crop had been planted in his area and that some plants were showing signs of nitrogen deficiency.
Herbicide Resistance Info
“It’s been almost three weeks since we’ve done any field work, and the plants that are up are very yellow,” he said.
Wet conditions were also hampering the state’s other major grain crop – soybeans. The Crop Progress report showed only 15 percent of Indiana’s soybean acreage had been planted as of the May 16 update, compared with a five-year average of 31 percent for the same date.
Purdue agricultural economist Chris Hurt said the planting delays could frustrate farmers who were hoping to benefit from higher soybean prices after reports last week of shrinking production in South America and greater-than-expected global demand.
“There is a sense of immediacy,” Hurt said.