We're keeping the tradition alive of gathering crop reports from these present and past Pro Farmer Crop Tour scouts. These reporters represent a cross-section from the four largest corn-producing states in the country and have been providing crop insights for the Pro Farmer Crop Tour Newsletter for six years. If you'd like to include a report (see below for updates, we will not publish names), use the comment section below or click here to send an e-mail.
Brad Nelson, Albert Lea, Minnesota: It is getting to be about time to start another growing season. The old saying "what a difference a year makes" certainly rings true. At this time last year trees were leafing out, lawns were green and fieldwork had been done -- including corn planting. This year we have continued since March the trend of cold weather along with moisture systems coming every three or four days. Our subsoil is still below normal but has improved quite a bit in April so far -- we have had over 3 inches of rain. On April 17 we had another system move in from the South that is expected to bring several days of rain and snow again. This is more of a normal pattern for here this time of year although I think the temperature has trended below normal. Normal corn planting for this area is between April 25 and May 10 -- preferably towards the early side of that. We still aren't wet, but April 10 through 14 we had over two inches of rain. April 16 was the first sunshine we had in days and the fields were drying up. Once the frost went out there has been no ponding, which signals we are building soil moisture for the season ahead. I would like to see warmer temperatures arrive. I probably won't hook my planter up until next week with the way the forecast is. Optimism will soon be in the air. We have to keep remembering the fun is just around the corner. We just haven't figured out how far away the corner is yet!
Byron Jones, Saybrook, Illinois: The soil is wet and even though the alfalfa is sown and the waterways re-seeded, the weather is cold and wetter than before. I doubt if any corn will be planted on our farm before April 26 given the current forecast. Our tiles are now running full force, but that did not occur until last week. Some seed corn is still in short supply as certain varieties in South America did not germinate. I fear that an early frost will curtail production as in 1974. We are following the same weather patterns.
Alan Karkosh, Hudson, Iowa: Will spring ever arrive? That seems to be the question around this part of Iowa. Cool, wet weather continues and it looks like based on the current extended forecast it will stay that way until the end of April. No wheels have turned here and it really hasn't even been close to being fit for fieldwork. Last year, we had all of our nitrogen on, had done a little corn planting and were sitting out a short wet period before we hit it hard with planting on April 24th and had all planting completed by May 15th. I think we are all appreciative of the moisture we are getting but it sure would be a lot more pleasant if it was a 65 degree rain instead of falling with a temperature of 35 that occasionally produces sleet or a snowflake. We are basically staying with our normal 50/50 crop rotation but part of that comes from being seed growers for both corn and soybeans. Seed acres in general are as large as last year, as the dry year did not allow seed companies any opportunity to build inventories. Also, the production year caused some late winter issues with germination rates not holding up to standards. I am sure as the spring keeps getting pushed later the seed companies will get more nervous about getting the seed crop planted. The biggest challenge we will probably face this spring is how fast to push planting with the less-than-ideal field conditions we are currently facing. One of the most important factors for good yields is getting uniform emergence and stand establishment. Planting corn seed that may not be as high of quality as normal into cool, wet soils is not conducive to getting an excellent stand. It will take us a few days to get ahead with anhydrous ammonia application yet to be done, so hopefully that will allow soils time to warm up and dry out for planting. As of today, I do not anticipate us planting any corn before May 1. Looking back on our records, it looks like this year may be similar to 2008 when our first corn was planted on May 4th. I'm just hoping it doesn't become a spring like 1993 when first corn planted was May 15. I would not expect a record yield on our farm this year based on the start of the growing season. Usually it takes an earlier, warmer planting season to produce a big crop -- although July and August weather is what ultimately makes or breaks the crop. One of the biggest frustrations a spring like this causes is there is no opportunity to get all those little projects done outside before crunch time. I'm just hoping we don't go from winter to summer and miss out on spring.
Tim Gregerson, Herman, Nebraska: An average start to the planting season for us is April 13 through 15 and last year we got off to an early start on April 9. But we picked up another rain in eastern Nebraska on April 17 and colder temps and flurries on the 18th mean we'll be really lucky if we get planters running on the 25th -- which is a really optimistic thought. If we were able to get in the fields on the 25th, we'd begin the planting season 10 days late. We can put the corn crop in fast, but you have to decide if it is the right thing to do or not. Because we can cover a lot of ground in a shorter amount of time, if you make the wrong decision and begin planting too early you've made a bigger mistake. My fear around here is that farmers will begin mudding the crop in too early. Cold springs really bother me because if they plant too early this year and we have a hot spell that dries out the soils this summer, we could have another 1983 season with shallow roots. The area in eastern Nebraska north of Omaha has had about 3 1/2 inches of rain in the last two weeks, with about 1 1/2 to 2 inches seen in the area south of Omaha. So everyone in the eastern part of the state has seen some rain. Snow was recently seen in the Panhandle and sandhills, but the southwest and south-central part of the state is still hurting for moisture. Everybody's subsoil moisture is close to record low because of the lengthy drought. There's nothing planted right now and soil temps are hovering around 40 degrees and could drop if the cooler forecast is realized.
4/18/13 -- Shelby County, Ohio (west-central): Had severe heat and drought until mid July 2012. Since then (9 months) we have had 35.7 inches of precipitation. Since January 1st we have had 12.0 inches; since April 1 we have had 3.6 inches with cold temperatures. Forcast for tomorrow is 79 degrees with at least 2 inches of rain. That warm rain should help bring the soil temperature up. Had some backhoe work done two weeks ago and found the subsoil is very wet four feet deep. With the best drying conditions, it will be May before any planters go to the fields here.