Stewart Seeds, like most other seed companies, holds winter meetings for customers throughout their marketing region. In this case that's Indiana, Ohio and a part of Kentucky.
Brian Denning, an AIM agronomist who works with the meetings, quizzes customers on important questions related to their farming operation at each meeting. The same questions are asked in every case. At the end of the meeting season, he totals the results.
This year, Denning even let Indiana Prairie Farmer include a few questions to ask. Asking the questions and getting answers is instantaneous. He uses a clicker system that allows farmers in the audience to respond. In 15 seconds, he can see what percentage of the audience picked which choice, in graph form.
Based on the poll, 96% of the farmers questioned would expect to be planting corn by now. Obviously, that estimate is off somewhat this year. But the question included an important caveat, Denning said. The question was: When would you start planting corn, assuming conditions were right?
Conditions means both dry soils that can be worked without causing soil compaction, and soils warm enough to cause germination. The minimum of 50 degrees soil temperature hasn't yet been met in some areas. When you're automatic livestock waterer is frozen up on April 16 because you shut it off during a warm spell, it's not a good sign.
More than one-third of the farmers in the poll would have liked to start planting corn before April 1. Another two of five would have started April 1 through April 15 if they thought things were right. Nearly one in five would have kicked in from April 15 through now to April 30.
Only 4% would wait until May 1 through May 15 to start planting corn. Unless the weather changes quickly, they may have lots of company this year.