An early spring has given Iowa and Illinois farmers a good jump on planting and other chores, but worries about a lack of rain already are creeping in.
According to the latest crop and weather reports from the National Agricultural Statistics Service, Iowa’s farmers have 98 percent of their corn and 85 percent of their soybeans planted. Last year at this time, farmers had 96 percent of their corn and 69 percent of their soybeans in the ground.
Illinois’ farmers have 99 percent of their corn and 80 percent of their soybeans planted. Last year’s comparable numbers were 84 percent of their corn and 38 percent of their soybeans.
Quad-City farmers are keeping pace with those numbers.
“My corn is all planted and I’ll have my soybeans done by the end of the week,” Scott County farmer Robb Ewoldt said Wednesday as he worked in his fields.
Instead of focusing on planting soybeans, Ewoldt has been chopping hay.
“We’ve been chopping for three weeks,” he said. “Normally we wouldn’t start chopping hay until this week, and if I got some hay done by the first of June, I’d consider that good.
“Everything is way ahead of schedule.”
The early spring and some heavy rains have meant grass is growing in the fields, so that is what his cattle have been eating, Ewoldt said. That saves money on feed.
Heavy rains early in the spring washed out some corn fields, or compacted the soil in them so that the corn that is planted cannot make it through the crust.
“Some of those guys are looking at replanting corn,” Ewoldt said. He said his area got about 4ƒ inches of rain May 3.
Taylor Ridge, Ill., farmer Tom Mueller said Wednesday that he saw some farmers in his area of Rock Island County replanting corn that was drowned by the last heavy rains, which dumped 6 inches in his area.
“They were planting where ponds had formed and stayed for too long,” he said.
Mueller also was out chopping hay, also, a good three weeks ahead of schedule. He said he is toying with the idea of planting some soybeans in the field where he is cutting his hay because he will finish so early. However, the problem is that there is not enough water in the first inch or so of ground to help the soybeans grow.
“There’s plenty of subsoil moisture, so the corn is fine,” Mueller said. It is good for corn roots to have to dig down into the ground to find that moisture as it stabilizes the stalk and helps to keep it standing.
Soybeans are different though.
“Beans, you plant a little shallower,” Mueller said. “You don’t plant beans more than an inch to 1ƒ inches down at maximum and that soil is getting a little dusty right now.
Ewoldt is relying on a little luck to get some moisture.
“The beans I’m planting are going into dry dirt,” he said. “To get it to rain, you either wash your truck or cut hay. I’m cutting hay, so I’m doing my part.”
Driven by high prices, the National Agricultural Statistics Service released a report March 30 projecting that the nation’s farmers will plant 95.9 million acres of corn this year, up 40 percent from 2011. It is expected to be the largest corn acreage in the country since 1937, when producers planted 97.2 million acres of corn.
It is expected farmers will plant 73.9 million acres of soybeans this year, down 1 percent from last year, and down 5 percent from 2010, the report said.