NEWS-SENTINEL EDITORIAL: Area farmers need the sun to shine

Farmers throughout the area were back in the fields the last two weeks whenever they could find dry ground. Some got stuck in the mud. Many are struggling to pay their bills.

But indications are that Indiana farmers have made some progress after incessant spring rains kept them way behind schedule.

We reported at the start of the month that the nation has experienced the wettest 12-month period in recorded history beginning May 2018. An average of 36.2 inches of rain fell on the lower 48 states during that period – more than six inches above average – surpassing 36 inches in a 12-month span for the first time in more than 120 years of keeping records.

And farmers were saying they have had the longest delay in planting this spring they’ve ever seen and were still waiting for the fields to dry out enough to get to work. Many with federal crop insurance were wrestling that first week of June with whether to give up hopes of planting and take a payment for 55 percent of the guaranteed corn revenue price of about $375 an acre set by their insurance plans.

Purdue University agriculture professor Michael Langemeier says planting corn after early June is a risk. Corn needs to be planted earlier than soybeans to reach maturity before fall frosts end the growing season. A Purdue analysis shows corn planted on June 10 could have a 20 percent lower yield.

As of the end of May, the federal government’s weekly crop report for Indiana showed just 22 percent of Indiana’s corn acreage had been planted. The average for the previous five years has been 85 percent by that date. By June 2, only 31 percent of Indiana’s expected corn crop had been planted. And only 11 percent of Indiana’s soybeans had been planted by the end of May, far behind the five-year average of 63 percent. By June 2, the soybean crop was up to 17 percent.

The latest U.S. Department of Agriculture report, however, shows 67 percent of Indiana’s expected corn crop was planted by June 9. That’s more than double the June 2 percentage but still down from the five-year average of 98 percent by that date.

Still, Indiana is trailing most states in corn planting, with Ohio the lowest at 50 percent. Other low planting rates for grain states on the USDA list by June 9 were Michigan (63 percent), South Dakota (64 percent) and Illinois (73 percent).

As for soybeans, the report shows 42 percent of Indiana’s crop had been planted by June 9. The state’s five-year average is 89 percent for that date. Only Ohio (32 percent) and Missouri (37 percent) were lower than Indiana.

The growth in planting percentages in the recent USDA report is encouraging, but farmers are not out of the woods yet – more rain hit last week and more is forecast this week. The almost-dry fields in many cases may once again be too wet to work.

With seed barely in the ground, if at all, it has already been a tough season for Indiana and Ohio farmers. May the sun shine on them in the days ahead.


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