Just how severe planting delays could turn out to be this spring depends upon who you talk to. Down along the Ohio River, planting was done nearly a week ago, and corn and soybeans were both up above ground. That was possible because many of the soils are shallow over gravel. It's also nearly a must to get corps out early so they have a better chance of beating dry weather there later in the growing season.
In northwest Indiana and northeast Indiana, there are pockets where less rain at key times allowed farmers to get some crops in. One farm manager in northwest Indiana said that from Lafayette north and west, probably half the corn was planted by May 15. But between there and the Ohio, and almost all the way down, there are far more unplanted fields than planted ones.
Here's an example: one farmer likes to plant early, and plants 4,000 acres. He has 300 planted. Another plants over 8,000 acres. He has less than 1,000 planted. The most planting that did get done was in pocket areas, such as northeast of Columbus and near Shelbyville, where soils sit over gravel or are sandier on the surface. There are scattered fields up in Decatur County near Greensburg, and in a few other locations.
What blocked field work so far, says Duane Drockelman, director of the South Laughery Creek Watershed in southeast Indiana, is the fact that his area hasn't gone more than three days without rain all spring. One of the more progressive farmers in the area planted 25 acres last week, but that was only to try out a new soybean planter rigged up from scratch.
If you're not farming sandy soils or soils over gravel, and unless you missed several rains or got lesser amounts, as in northwest Indiana, the only opportunity for fieldwork has been a couple of times with a couple days tacked on the end of a brief break in the rain. Some fields that were planted then were marginal. Bust as Gary Steinhardt, know for soil compaction research at Purdue University, says, "There comes a time when you have to plant and harvest. Soil compaction that you create then becomes a cost of doing business."
The only saving grace many are pointing to is that once rain stops long enough so they can get into fields, today's large planting capacity on most farms will allow planting to go quickly. One observer remarked in northwest Indiana that when guys finally got a couple of days, about half the crop went in during that time frame.
Being ready to roll is a must. Some may rely on lightbars and GPS, with or without auto-steering, to let them plant earlier and later in the day than was practical before these tools came along.
Here's to hoping the rain drops take a temporary break soon!