There’s growing frustration for farmers planting corn in the nation’s heartland; due to several rain delays and in some cases, severe flooding from El Niño’s wet spring.
For the latest, we take a look around the Corn Belt to see what’s going on with planting and how farmers are dealing with the excessive rainfall over the last several weeks.
In Kansas, corn farmers are just halfway there after waiting out nearly a week, from rain and then subsequent soggy soil. Therefore, many couldn’t make much progress planting last week (week of May 6th.)
“If you look at Kansas Ag (agricultural) statistics, and the Crop Progress Report at the first of the week (May 13th,) Kansas is estimated to be planted at 46-percent, which increased from 41-percent during the previous week,” said Sue Schulte; Communications Director for Kansas Corn Growers Association.
“Last year (2018) was also a late planting season in Kansas. Meanwhile, we had widespread rains across the state last week (May 6-8.) Based on the USDA/NASS Prospective plantings estimate of 5.7 million acres of corn in Kansas, that equates to 2.6 million acres planted. With the wet weather, planted acres only increased five percent, or 300,000 acres.
South central Kansas reported the greatest gain in planting, according to the USDA/NASS Crop Progress Report. “This week’s weather outlook calls for warmer, drier and sunnier conditions, which will be a welcome change,” Schulte noted.
Schulte says not much corn could be planted as the month of May got underway because a large area of Kansas (and surrounding states) received several days of rainfall. “Much of that was heavy rain, or flooding,” added Schulte. “South of Wichita, the (Kansas) Turnpike was under water.”
River flooding also let loose into central Kansas fields in and near Salina. Jaw-dropping flooding has been observed (May 9th) driving along Interstate 70 in Salina, where new ‘lakes’ had formed surrounding enormous highway billboard signs. Also, a swather was stranded in the middle of one Salina flooded field that looked more like a lake.
“In central Kansas, farmers are just going to have to wait, and see how the water clears off and the fields dry up. It’s a different kind of flooding than what was in Nebraska…(Nebraska’s March flooding occurred when ice jams melted and levees broke.) It’s not on that proportion,” said Schulte.
Another potential concern in Kansas…“If corn has already been planted – there’s concern there, with worries about dirt crusting over and slowing the seeds from breaking through the soil,” she added.
In Kansas, corn isn’t all planted at the same time. Southeast Kansas; a lower elevation, has a warmer climate and they plant earlier. Northwest Kansas has a lot higher elevation, with a different climate and colder nights.
“I think everybody wishes the weather was better for planting season, but there’s still that window of time, although that window is getting smaller as we get toward the middle of May. We’re getting to that point, where people really want to get in the fields,” said Schulte. “But we’ve seen in the past, that when we get a nice dry spell, we can plant a lot of corn in Kansas in a short period of time…when those planters really get rolling.”
“Nebraska is (also) at 46-percent planted as of Monday; May 13th, so we only got 11% more of the crop planted, (from the previous week.) According to the USDA we were at 68-percent at this time last year and 72% for the five-year average,” said Boone McAfee; Director of Research and Stewardship with the Nebraska Corn Board.
Much of Nebraska received some rain over the weekend, and McAfee said they’re hoping warmer temperatures this week will allow farmers to get back in the fields. “I’d say most of the overall planting progress has been in the central and western thirds of the state,” he added.
Also, areas that had sand and soil loss and infrastructure problems from Nebraska’s historic March flooding continue – in the clean-up and assessment phases. “Some farmland right along the rivers have sand, and so any progress this year for those areas is still up in the air,” said McAfee. “In the most impacted areas where severe topsoil washed away or where there’s sand near rivers that saw the most flooding…those areas are probably not planting this year. They’re cleaning up and assessing what can be done.”
Iowa is almost running ‘neck and neck’ on corn acres planted with Kansas and Nebraska, with Iowa corn statistics just slightly higher at 48-percent. That’s up from Iowa’s 36-percent during the previous week.
“Through innovation, technology and hard work, corn farmers are able to produce more with less,” said Iowa Corn Growers Association® President and Iowa farmer Curt Mether. “Our corn yield averages have steadily increased over the years; while trying to reduce our environmental footprint. As we ramp up planting, which is one of our busiest seasons of the year, we are working to create resources for a growing world while safeguarding our environment,” added Mether.
Out of the 18 corn-producing states, the National Corn Growers Association says Missouri’s corn is 52-percent planted. Illinois corn is 11-percent planted. North Carolina tops the list at 88-percent, followed by Tennessee at 79-percent planted. Across the Tennessee border, Kentucky corn is 55-percent planted. Colorado corn has reached 39-percent, and Texas is now 75-percent planted in corn acres. Pennsylvania corn is 26-percent planted.
In the northern Plains, South Dakota’s flooding problems has only enabled farmers to plant just four-percent of their corn. North Dakota is 11-percent planted.
Other states in the Upper Mississippi Valley that plant corn include: Minnesota at 21-percent planted, Wisconsin at 14-percent planted, Indiana at six-percent, Ohio at four-percent, and Michigan corn which is five-percent planted as of the May 13th report.
These states make up 92-percent of U.S. corn acreage last year, which was just over 89-million acres. In sum, 30% of U.S. corn has been planted to date in the 18 major corn producing states compared to 59% at the same time last year.