I-80 Planting Tour: Fighting Rain Drops in Northern Illinois

April 27, 2016 11:59 AM
 
planting corn 2

Soybean planting is now starting to ramp up. In the 18 top-growing soybean states, 3% is planted. In Illinois, 2% is planted, which is right on average pace. Farmers in Northern Illinois had a pretty fast start to planting with a lot of progress. But after a brief rain delay, farmers are picking up where they left off.

It’s a short rain delay during the heat of planting.

“It’s halftime," jokes Steve Pitstick, farmer in Maple Park, Ill. "We’re regrouping."

It may have kept some seeds in the planter, but it didn’t stay there for long. “We’ve had a pretty hard run the last few days. We’ve had a couple of short nights but it’s what we do,” Pitstick says.

That statement is all too true for the Illinois farmer. He’s working through the night to make sure the seed gets in the ground with this year’s variable weather. “A farmer never wants to be rained out with a field partially done. So, I got up at 3:30 a.m. and finished the field," Pitstick says. "Then, it didn’t rain."

While Mother Nature has been threatening more raindrops, Pitstick has yet to complain. “The ground is dry. It’s not overly wet. We were able to plant in almost perfect conditions,” he says.

Some of his corn has sprouted, and soybeans seem to be ahead of schedule. “Everything is off to a good start. It could be the first time in my career where I’ve had soybeans up in April,” Pitstick says.

He’s taking advantage of the window. Roughly 80% of his corn and 60% of his soybeans are in the ground. “In the 1990s and early 2000s, we went back to a 50-50 rotation,” Pitstick explains. 

Another planter is sitting idle in Northern Illinois. “It’s a welcome rain delay. We went hard for four or five days,” says Matt Kellogg, farmer in Yorkville, Ill.

That pause isn’t holding Kellogg back. He’s planted the earliest in years and is done putting corn in the ground. “We’ve had years with prevent plant, (when) we didn’t get the crop in the ground all the way. Last year was pushed back pretty far. It’s been probably three out of the last five years where we got pushed into late May or early June,” says Kellogg. 

Mother Nature may keep him at a standstill again this week. Kellogg doesn’t mind for now. “I would say we’re pretty dry. We didn’t have a frost to really speak of this winter. That’s kind of strange and scary," says Kellogg. "The last time that happened was the drought year when we didn’t have frost. We are holding our breath, hoping it keeps raining."

Despite the forecast, he’s staying busy with a seed business and the late orders on chemicals and seed this year.  “People were holding out for those cash rents. Guys are still ordering seed, (and) a lot of that late picked-up ground in our area is going to beans," Kellogg says. "There was more shopping around than I’ve ever seen."

As planters prepare to move, both farmers hope this homestretch will finish as well as it began. 

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How is your planting season going? Let us know by sending your photos and observations to AgWeb's Crop Comments. 

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