Corn farmers anxious to get back into fields

Recent rains and flooding have many Arkansas farmers cooling their heels. They would like to be preparing their land for planting corn, but weather-related problems have delayed tillage operations.

Much of the ground preparation would have been taken care of in the fall, but unfavorable weather conditions then conspired to cut that short, according to Jason Kelley, Extension agronomist/wheat and feed grains for the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture.

In spring of 2007, farmers had planted 45 percent of the corn crop by March 25, compared to the five-year average of 14 percent. Kelley figures 5 percent or less of the crop will have been planted on March 25 this year.

“Last year, farmers were excited about high prices for corn and wanted to make sure they got it planted. Also, they were blessed with favorable weather for planting early,” Kelley explained. “At that time, we were just entering a two- or three-week period of dry, 80-degree weather. We were about two or three weeks ahead of schedule last year.”

Typically, the corn-planting season is the middle of March until the end of April.

“We still have plenty of time to plant corn without losing yield potential. That’s the take-home message. But we need dry, warm and windy weather.”

Kelley thinks farmers this year will plant slightly less corn than they did last year. Seed companies are telling him that farmers have booked as much seed as they did last year.

“I don’t think we’ll plant more than last year. Last year, corn looked most attractive from an economic standpoint. This year, all crops look profitable, and I don’t think you can go wrong planting any of them.”

Kelley said farmers can only sit and wait until fields dry out. He said farmers have a little experience planting late.

“Many farmers had to replant corn later than they would have liked after the Easter freeze last year. I believe the planting window is a little wider than what we give it credit for as long as farmers have good hybrids to plant.”

He warned corn planted recently will probably sit in the ground for two weeks, and it may not come up uniformly.

“If I were planting corn right now, I would be as happy it was in the bag as in the ground.”

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