Improving weather's allowing Hoosier farmers to get in their crops

Despite wet conditions, there has been progress made in planting corn and soybeans, say some Wabash Valley farmers.

“It is still a mess, but it is better than two weeks ago when we weren’t able to do anything,” said Brad Burbrink, an owner of BE N AG Family Farm in southeast Vigo County, which has 6,000 acres.

The farm has a little over 75% of its corn planted and about 60 percent of its soybeans, Burbrink said.

“We have had a good run in the last week or so. We feel much better that we have that much planted, but we are actually having to replant some of the corn we planted early. It stayed too wet too long. It is more of a headache to figure out what to keep and what to get rid of,” he said.

“If we keep missing the rains, we will have the opportunity to get the rest of it in,” he added.

However, Burbrink said the farm does not intend to plant any more corn. Instead, he said he will take preventative crop insurance and plant more soybeans.

“That’s because it is after the June 5 (crop insurance) deadline, so the last 25% of our corn will probably not get planted,” Burbrink said. “You get a little bit of insurance money, but [you’re] mostly counting on the soybean crop at that point.

"Corn looks more favorable, but getting something growing is better than nothing.”

For his part, Jack Strain said it’s the latest planting season he has ever experienced.

“We are doing better than expected,” said the 77-year-old farmer, who owns 840 acres west of Farmersburg but farms 1,500 acres total with his son, Mike.

The father/son farmers have 500 acres planted in corn and 225 acres planted in soybeans.

“We probably want 700 or 800 acres in corn and we can still plant that until June 10,” Strain said. “If the rain holds off and we can get into the fields, we will get about everything planted.”

Nationally, it has been the wettest 12 months on record, starting May 1, 2018, with precipitation averaging 6 inches above average, according to the National Weather Service.

However, Terre Haute was above average rainfall in April, but below the average in May, said Andrew White, meteorologist for the National Weather Service at Indianapolis.

“We have been really wet, but overall we are not as extreme as the West and Southwest,” White said of Indiana.

“For the month May in Terre Haute, rain was reported 17 of 31 days, so more than half of the days in May. In April, it was also 17 days, so for the last two months, more than half of the days have had rainfall,” White said.

Terre Haute in April had 5.47 inches, above the average of 4.15 inches.

In May, typically the wettest month of the year, Terre Haute had 4.55 inches of rain, below the month’s average of 6.63 inches, White said.

“We had a lot of smaller rainfall days. It seems it was a lot more wet than it really was because it rained a lot, but overall the amounts where not too high,” White said. “Farmers are definitely behind schedule when it comes to planting, but they had some time earlier this week,” when it was dry enough for planting.

In a look statewide, 31% of Indiana’s corn crop and 17% of soybeans had been planted as of June 2, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Just 18% of corn crop has emerged (plant is visible in field) in Indiana and 9% of soybeans have emerged as of June 2, according to the USDA.

Nationally, of 18 states tracked by the USDA, 67% of corn has been planted and 39 percent of soybeans. Those states are Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan, Wisconsin, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, South Dakota and Texas.

Terry Hayhurst said clay soil, which holds water, at Hayhurst Farms has worked against him in this wet spring.

Hayhurst said he has about 400 acres of corn planted, but still has another 200 acres to plant. Additionally, he had not planted one soybean as of June 6 “and we have 700 acres of soybeans to plant,” he said.

“That is how it works, just sit and wait” for better planting weather, Hayhurst said, adding “we don’t yet know what kind of [growing] season we have ahead of us.”

For Vigo County farmer Frank Miklozek, this year’s late planted crop will likely be determined by summer weather.

He farms 1,000 acres. All of his corn is planted but he has about 150 acres left to plant in soybeans.

“I am worried about a late crop. If the rain shuts off and it gets really hot this summer, we are going to have a big problem, real quick,” Miklozek said.

That could mean lower crop yield, “maybe 20%. So if we have a national (yield) average of 170 (bushels per acre) and you take 20% off of that, you are looking at like 145 bushel corn crop on a national average. That could be very detrimental. It could be good for the price, but you will need the price to supplement for the loss” of volume, Miklozek said.

“It is going to be a critical summer,” he said. “I mean very critical.”

Strain agrees with Miklozek, saying the late planting this year could add costs at harvest, as farmers may have to dry corn, as well as deal with a lesser yield.

In a look at the summer, NWS meteorologist White said the “overall wet pattern doesn’t look like it is ending any time soon” in Indiana.

“For the months of June, July and August, as it looks right now, precipitation will be near normal to slightly above normal,” White said. “The summer outlook has us staying near normal on temperatures, but with above normal rainfall, so it may make it feel a little more humid, driving heat indexes higher. It could be a muggy summer,” White said.

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