"We're not quite waxing tractors yet," he joked last week.
Farmers across a wide stretch of the Midwest find themselves in
similar shape: talking, watching and waiting rather than planting,
thanks to a cool, wet spring.
"We're all sitting on pins and needles waiting for it to dry out,''
said Bob Nielsen, a Purdue University agronomy professor. Most of
Indiana's fields are too wet to plant.
It reminds some of 2008, when the crop went in a month or more late
in many states, and prices -- just as ethanol and booming economies
overseas drove up demand -- went through the roof.
Farmers rode a yo-yo that had them waiting, then planting late, then
replanting in many cases as fields flooded, and finally watching and
waiting again to see if they could harvest crops seeded as late as
June before the first frost.
Some farmers left crops in the field, unharvested before snow came
to the northern half of the Corn Belt. It's a memory they'd just as
soon not relive.
"We're concerned with this now,'' said Blair Hoerbert, a 49-year-old
farmer from San Jose, about 40 miles north of Springfield.
He still has work to do from last fall, when the combination of the
late crop and wet weather kept him from working over his fields the
way he normally would after harvest, much less his pre-planting work
for this spring and the planting itself.
"Things are stacking up on us pretty hard now,'' he said as he
thought about the 500-plus acres he plans to plant with corn.
But experts say the Corn Belt is a long way from a repeat of 2008.
Yes, the crop will likely be planted late from eastern Iowa to Ohio,
a region the U.S. Department of Agriculture says will account for
more than a quarter of this year's anticipated 85 million-acre corn
Late crops risk missing out on crucial days in the field that can
AccuWeather farm forecaster Dale Mohler said a slow-moving storm
over the past weekend and early this week was expected to douse
farmers from eastern Missouri to Ohio, but then the region would see
at least a handful of warm, dry days.
If that happened, the region's corn crop could still get off to a
strong start, even with a delay of a couple of weeks, Purdue's
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"We could label (the wait) more as a nuisance and frustration rather
than anything serious,'' he said.
And things worked out OK even last year -- corn planted in late May
and into June in many places turned out fairly well. Plus, prices
were high enough that farmers had the kind of revenue cushion that
made even a decent yield pay off.
But prices aren't nearly as high now: just below $4 a bushel, down
sharply from last year's highs well over $7. They've been pushed
down by worldwide economic doldrums and drastically reduced demand
Some farmers say they're worried prices will drop further, in spite
of the fear of late planting, something that would typically push
Ted Mies, 34, who farms near his father in Loami, about 10 miles
southwest of Springfield, said it's tempting to push into the fields
too fast, something that could compact soils and make them too dense
for roots to penetrate. He won't rush in.
"Patience is the name of the game right now,'' he said.
University of Illinois crop expert Emerson Nafziger said he won't be
really concerned about unplanted corn until the second week of May,
but he admits that this year, as far as weather, looks eerily like
last. And he understands farmers' nervousness.
"People start to look at the calendar and look at the field,'' he
said, "and (then) tinker with their planter one more time.''
By DAVID MERCER]
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