By TIM THORNBERRY
FRANKFORT, Ky. — It has been a challenging planting season in much of the region thus far, as rains continued to fall last week and left much of the state’s corn crop unplanted.
For those producers who have gotten their crop into the ground, some of that has been underwater. Jim Herbek, a grain crop specialist with the University of Kentucky (UK) College of Agriculture, said in western Kentucky, farmers like to have their corn planted by May 10 – and as one moves further east the dates move to May 15 or 20 – but that was just not going to happen, for many.
“We’re approaching that point where, on the average, we start to lose yields,” he said. “I want to say, though, that it’s the weather that’s going to occur after this corn has been planted that will determine how well it does.”
Herbek added in years before when corn was planted late it has done quite well in many cases – it is just a waiting game, and hopefully some of the rain and cooler temperatures now will show up later, in the summer months.
Last year more than 90 percent of Kentucky corn had been planted by this time because of a warm early spring, but a hot, dry summer turned a promising crop into a disaster for many farmers.
Mandy Bryant, of Long Vue Farms in Allensville, Ky., located in the western part of the state, may be one of the few exceptions when it comes to producers who have 100 percent of their corn planted. She said the problem now is many of those acres are underwater or in less than desirable shape due to flooding, excessive moisture and how hard and fast some of the rains have come.
The conditions have not only affected the corn crop, but also the wheat. “Even in a 100 percent no-till operation, six to seven inches (of rain) falling in 24 hours is more than some hillsides and rolling places can take. We have some rows washed out completely in places, other areas it washed enough soil away to shallow the seed to an undesirable depth,” Bryant said.
“It’s not a total loss, but has made it very difficult to sidedress liquid nitrogen in a timely fashion and caused us to have lots of wheat with wet feet, needing fungicide.”
Matt Dixon, a UK meteorologist, said most of the state has experienced extremely wet conditions, with some areas receiving more rain than others. In the western and eastern ends of the state, precipitation has been more than 1.5 inches above normal, while the Lexington area in central Kentucky has received more than 3 inches above normal rainfall.
“It looks like we might finally get a chance to dry out (this week). All signs are pointing toward dry conditions,” Dixon said.
He added conditions for the rest of the month are looking to be near normal, as far as precipitation is concerned.
Last weekend’s falling temperatures also became a concern as another rain system moved through. The potential for light, patchy frost caused some concern for wheat producers and those with corn already planted.
Chad Lee, another UK grain crop specialist, said it’s not time for growers to panic just yet – but a good week of planting is needed.
“If we make good planting progress this week, then there won’t be a lot of concern, overall. If we don’t, then there is going to be a lot of decisions made as to whether they (farmers) keep the same crop or switch to soybeans or early-maturing hybrids; all those things come into play,” he explained.
After last weekend’s rain, Lee said what’s needed now are warm temperatures and a good breeze to help dry fields out enough for planting. On average that could mean 3-4 days of consistently dry weather in order for fields to dry enough.
So far, an extended dry period has not happened this season here or across much of the Midwest.
Lee added as far as soybeans are concerned, the calendar says there is still plenty of time for planting – except that corn may now have to be put off to when farmers are normally planting soybeans, pushing farmers from a logistical standpoint.