U. S. farmers, sidelined by spring storms that muddied fields around the Midwest, were chomping at the bit to complete the planting tasks they had started in March, agronomists said last Tuesday.
“They were getting a lot of work done,” said Charles Mansfield, extension agronomist with Purdue University in Indiana. “We had that prior spell of warm days. They are kind of ready to pick it up where they left off when it turned all cool and rainy. They are waiting for that green light.”
Cold weather was slowing the drying process, leading to further delays.
In Iowa, the top corn and soybean producing state, farmers were only able to work in their fields for an average of 1.9 days in the week ended April 5, according to the U. S. Agriculture Department’s National Agricultural Statistical Service.
Fertilizer application on Iowa fields was 47 per cent complete, six percentage points behind last year and eight percentage points below the five-year average.
“We still have snow on the ground here,” said Palle Pedersen, extension agronomist at Iowa State University.
Farmers in Illinois were reporting that it may take a few weeks of warm and dry weather before they could start planting in earnest, NASS said.
Planting progress is typically slow in early April but farmers can make significant progress by the end of the month if the weather co-operates.
In 2008, only two per cent of the corn crop had been planted as of April 13 and farmers in major corn-producing states such as Iowa and Illinois had not planted any corn, according to USDA data.
This year, wet conditions also were delaying planting in southern states, where farmers are usually busy in their combines this time of year. In Arkansas only 18 per cent of this year’s crop was planted, well below the five-year average for early April of 55 per cent.
“We have a little too much moisture but we should not complain about that,” Pedersen said. “It is better to have a little bit too much than not have enough.”