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No worries yet on planting corn

BY ALEKSANDRA VUJICIC | APRIL 18, 2014 5:00 AM

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Iowa’s prized crop has gone unplanted so far this year, but farmers’ concerns aren’t growing.

Iowa, along with other major corn-producing states, are planting their corn at historically low rates for this time of year, according to a crop process report released earlier this week by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The report shows that only 3 percent of corn has been planted among 18 states, half of what the average was from 2009-2013.

Tiffin area farmer Steve Swenka does not find this report alarming because farmers’ still has plenty of time to plant the rest of their corn.  

“When you’re talking about government reports, it’s always good to start out with a quote from Dwight Eisenhower, ‘Farming looks very easy when your plow is a pencil, and you’re thousands of miles away from the corn field,’ ” Swenka said.

Swenka said even though the weather isn’t there yet when it comes to planting corn right now, it won’t be a problem unless the optimal ground temperatures have not been reached by mid-May.

“This is one of the most severe winters we’ve had,” Swenka said. “In certain areas, there was up to 5 feet, or maybe over 5 feet, of frost in the ground. As a farmer you have to plan when conditions are right; you can’t go by the calendar.”

Iowa State University agricultural economics professor Patrick O’Rourke agreed, and said it’s too early to be worried.

“The spring has been cold and wet,” O’Rourke said. “We’ve seen a lot of variation over the last decade because of differences in how the spring weather has unfolded.”

Though Swenka is remaining optimistic, he said the window of good planting opportunity is narrower now than it has been in the past.

“It does seem like it’s a little harder to get a crop planted than it once was,” Swenka said. “The weather is just so changeable and volatile. You really have to take advantage of the good weather when it’s there because you never know what tomorrow might bring.”

The report also found that Iowa has planted about 10 percent more oats this year than it did at the same time last year. Iowa also beat seven out of eight other oat-producing states in the amount thus far.

Local farmer Kevin Kinney planted a field of oats a week ago, but he had to hold off on planting corn.

Oats are a cool weather crop, meaning they can stand cooler temperatures compared with corn or soybeans, Swenka said. And because we’ve had a pretty dry March, Kinney was able to get his oats planted without the ground temperatures affecting the process.

Swenka attributes the spike in oats to the optimal weather conditions that corn has yet to see.

Kinney agreed, expecting to see a change in the coming weeks.

“It will probably be a week or two before you see corn being planted,” Kinney said. “Within the past week, the frost is finally coming out of the ground; we’ve had frost much later this year.”

For now, Swenka said, corn can be planted as late at May 15, allowing ample opportunity to raise a record-breaking crop.


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