Janesville47.1°

Farmers play catch-up in fields

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ANN MARIE AMES
May 21, 2008

With a spring as cold and wet as this one, it takes a scientific method to determine if the soil is dry enough for planting.


“You do the boot test,” said Evansville grain producer Gordie Andrew. “You stick your boot in the ground. If you can make a mud ball, it’s too wet.”


The last few days of dry weather have given Rock County farmers the chance to play catch-up planting corn and soybeans, Andrew said. He’s planted 75 percent of his 3,500 acres in Green and Rock counties.


He thinks that’s representative of what other Rock County farmers have planted, and it’s close to the national average, Andrew said.


At the DeLong Co., 513 Front St., Clinton, Seed Division Manager Steve Quade has not seen a rush on short-season corn hybrids. Generally, May 20 is the day growers consider switching to a corn hybrid that can mature more quickly—95 to 100 days, he said.


Either fields are still too wet, or farmers are waiting to switch to soybeans, Quade said. Beans can go in as late as mid-June, he said.


Either way, DeLong’s will take back seed farmers purchased earlier and give them the hybrid they want. The seed goes back to the distributor who will ship it south, Quade said.


Generally, Rock County farmers plant corn that will yield in 103 to 110 days, Quade said. That optimizes yields by letting the plant produce the most corn possible.


Switching to a hybrid that produces in fewer days can cut yields 10 to 15 percent and increase drying time in the fall, Quade said. If corn isn’t dry when it’s picked, farmers have to dry it mechanically before storage.


With the high price of corn and other commodities, that 15 percent makes a big dent.


Figure new crop corn trading at $5.60 in Evansville on Tuesday afternoon. The average Rock County farmer gets 150 bushels of corn per acre. That means $84,000 of corn could come out of a 100-acre field.


Reducing yields 15 percent cuts $12,600 from the profit.


Even though it’s been slow going, it’s not a really unusual year, Quade said.


Farmers have been spoiled the last few years when they were able to get into fields early, he said.


Wet fields are to be expected after record snowfalls. On top of that, from January 1 to May 11 of this year, Janesville got 14.5 inches of precipitation, more the twice the average of 5.8 inches, according to The Janesville Gazette records.


That’s left standing water in many fields, especially in the Evansville area, UW Extension crops agent Jim Stute said.


Andrew isn’t going to take time to worry about it.


“We’re keeping a good attitude,” Andrew said. “Everybody’s especially busy this week. The seed dealers have been busy. That’s a good thing.”



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