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Snails, Whales and Puppy Dog Tales ...

What ingredients does it take to make a good growing season?

What are little boys made of? You know the old lines. Well, what is a good growing season made of? The '08 season might have been good enough for whales, and certainly snails, in parts of Indiana. The odds say that's not likely to happen again for a long time, let alone this year. Puppy dog tails wag on sunny days. That's what Hoosiers are looking for before the month is over- sunny days with a break from rain.

The first part of April has featured rain. But while it's limiting field work, some parts of the state were behind on moisture for the year until last week. Going into the season 'fully loaded' with moisture can be a good thing.

Some may be getting queasy, itching to get started in the field. There was some anhydrous ammonia applied, a tad of field work done, and some fertilizer spread during the last couple weeks of March, before it turned wet again. But the bulk of the work remains to be done. Yet the calendar is only at mid-April. To your grandfathers, maybe even fathers, that wasn't even time to begin thinking about planting corn.

In fact, one remedy instructors taught World War II veterans at special schools for farmers after the war was that if they waited to plant until May 20, it would help beat the European corn borer. That was before the days of insecticides, later Counter and now Bt crops. By nearly everyone's standards, May 20 is late for planting corn. Unfortunately, many found that out last year, and then some.

So while it's far from late, there are those who will feel better once they see soils dry enough to get back in the field. Among them will be fertilizer dealers. Many are waiting to see just how much fertilizer farmers will or won't buy and apply. And if they do decide to buy it, will the dealers be able to get it in time from their suppliers, and deliver it on the farm in a timely manner. So little went out last fall and so far this spring that it's still a big waiting game, most dealers report.

One source in the fertilizer supply business indicated that this is indeed one of the most unusual seasons shaping up that he has ever seen. His biggest problem is uncertainty. What will farmers decide they can afford to apply, especially on ground that they may have paid high cash rent for the privilege of farming it this year. Some of those deals were made before commodity prices slid as far as they have.

If we run this column May 1 because it's still wet, then more eyebrows will be raised. It still certainly be late by modern standards, but it will no longer be early by today's standards either. And if it runs May 15, then all bets are off.

Fortunately, that's some 30 days away. A lot of drying can happen between now and then. You may say goodbye to whales and snails, and hello to happy puppy dog tails, wagging in the sun as the planter goes up and down the field. Hang in there - better days are ahead!

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