Heavy rains halted planting for most of last week across Iowa but thanks largely to the planting progress made prior to last week, Iowa farmers now have over 60% of the state's 2009 corn crop in the ground.
It was 60% planted as of May 3, according to the government's weekly crop and weather survey. That's 11 days ahead of last year's pace for corn planting and two days ahead of the 5-year average, according to the survey released by the Iowa Field Office of USDA's National Ag Statistics Service on May 4.
In areas dry enough to plant, there were farmers in the field on May 4 in Iowa, so corn planting statewide is now actually over 60% completed. "There are a few planters rolling here today," said farmer Ron Litterer, on May 4. "But it's a little wet yet on most fields around here. On our farm, we may get started planting again tomorrow or the next day, if the rain holds off." He has 75% of his corn already planted, as he was able to take advantage of dry weather during the week of April 17 to 24. He farms in Floyd County in northeast Iowa.
Wet, cold soils are delaying corn emergence
At 60% complete as of May 3, farmers in Iowa made limited progress in getting more of the crop 2009 planted last week. The survey the week before showed Iowa had 47% of its corn planted as of April 26.
"Wet weather statewide last week slowed planting to a near stop and caused some soil erosion in recently worked fields," says Harry Hillaker, state climatologist at the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. Farmers welcomed the dryer weather this past weekend—May 2 and 3, but warmer temperatures are still needed. Soil temperatures have been low, which slows germination and is causing emergence to lag behind the 5-year average.
Only 2% of the state's corn was emerged as of May 3. Normally, 7% of Iowa's corn has emerged by that date. As of May 3, corn planting was 78% complete in northwest Iowa, 68% in north central Iowa, 52% in northeast Iowa, 70% in west central Iowa, 64% in central Iowa, 37% in east central, 62% in southwest, 36% in south central and 38% complete in southeast Iowa.
Soybean planting is now underway in Iowa
Soybean planting advanced to 6% complete statewide as of May 3. That's 16% ahead of last year and 3% ahead of the 5-year average. Soybean planting is 8% complete in northwest Iowa, 4% in north central, 6% in northeast, 8% in west central, 6% in central, 4% in east central, 7% in southwest, 3% in south central and 4% in southeast Iowa--all as of May 3.
"This is an amazing pace for getting corn planting done in Iowa, maybe the fastest in history in the western Corn Belt," observes Ray Jenkins, chief grain merchandiser for Cargill at Eddyville in southeast Iowa. "Progress this spring is excellent in northern Iowa and southern Minnesota, and in Nebraska."
On May 3 he noted that "Today we're hearing parts of northeast Iowa and northwest Iowa are able to make some more progress. Conditions aren't the greatest in some of these fields with the cold, moist soils. But now that the calendar has moved into May, farmers who aren't finished planting corn yet are having a greater sense of urgency to get their crop in the ground."
More early planted corn will emerge this week
"I saw a couple of fields that I could row on the way to work today, which is May 3," says Jenkins. "I think the corn that was planted between April 15 and April 20 is going to jump up out of the ground this week. There is emerged corn in many parts of the southern half of the state already. And the young corn looks pretty good despite the wet, cool weather."
While the western Corn Belt is making good progress on planting, the eastern Corn Belt is a different story. How does Jenkins summarize yield prospects at this early point in 2009? "If farmers can get 75% of the crop planted before May 10 to May 15, it would put us in a position to achieve trendline or maybe slightly above trendline corn yields this year in the U.S., assuming the rest of the growing season is favorable," he says. "That is certainly very possible."