"AgDay" is more than half way done with the 2013 I-80 Planting Tour, and we’ve yet to see planting take place. In northern Indiana, where temperatures are in the 80s this week, area farmers may get a small window to plant. But with rain in the forecast the rest of the week, it looks like progress could be limited.
Jason Wykoff farms around New Carlisle and Granger, Ind. He says it’s been a frustrating year, especially considering the record planting pace in 2012.
"Last year we had most of our commercial corn planted in April. We started about the 15th of April, and this year we haven’t really done anything," he says.
With puddles lining these Indiana fields, it’s quickly turned into the waiting game for Wykoff.
"I think most farmers would prefer a little bit drier spring and a more moist July and August," he says.
In just a matter of months, the drought situation has dramatically changed. In August 2012, the state was still covered in some level of drought. Currently, the Drought Monitor shows Indiana is in the clear. Wykoff says the soil moisture has finally been replenished.
"Things are pretty wet," he says. "We're digging some holes for pipe and there’s a lot of moisture in the ground."
This seems to be the case for all of Indiana. The latest USDA Crop Progress report shows only 1% of the state’s corn crop has been planted. That’s 66 percentage points behind last year’s record planting pace, and 29 percentage points off of average.
See an interactive map of planting progress.
"One thing we talk about in our organization is to try not to rush things or hit a five-run homerun in any one day," Wykoff says. "There’s only so much we can do in one day. So, we try to be patient and do that right, because we have to live with that decision for the rest of the season."
Wykoff says about 80% of his business is growing seed corn, which is also behind in planting this year.
"We were hoping, and our production manager was hoping, to be planted towards the end of April, just to get some fields going," he says.
As pivot irrigation sales soar higher this year, it’s creating issues for farmers, like Wykoff, to even get in some of his fields. Acres are still out of commission, as he waits for workers to finish installing the last of his new pivots.
"A lot of irrigation has gone in this year; we’ve put in a few," he says. "Those guys are in the same situation. They’ve had difficulty getting in and getting pipe in the ground. We’re still waiting on several of those to be finished."
With all the delays, Wykoff has switched up his chemistry plan to get a faster response.
"We were hoping to be spraying earlier in April and that just hasn't happened," says Wykoff. "So we've gone with some chemistry that has a little bit quicker mode of action of turning that brown."
The sprayer is finally rolling on one of the few sunny, warm days this spring. As the puddles quickly disappear, being able to plant this week is looking promising. Rain, however, is in the forecast the next few days, which will limit the amount of time Wykoff has to plant.
While he hopes Mother Nature gives him a bigger window to get his entire crop planted this year, continuous moisture throughout the growing season will help prevent a repeat of last year.
"I always say we're about a week away from a drought in most of our soils," Wykoff says. "We need constant rain on these types of soils to have good yields."