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Local farmers excited about 'fantastic' spring conditions

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ANN MARIE AMES
May 3, 2010

Oh, what a difference six months can make.


Conditions have been “fantastic” for local farmers who have been planting corn at a spanking rate.


“Fantastic” isn’t a word farmers use often to describe anything.


But that’s how Walworth County grain producer Mike Cerny described conditions this spring. Thanks to cooperative weather, Cerny said he and his colleagues have been able to relax and plant at their own pace rather than race against frost or floods, he said.


“It was a real pleasure, as it should be,” Cerny said about planting corn.


Note he said, “was.”


When Cerny talked to the Gazette last week, he was waiting for a delivery of seed corn so he could get the last of the crop into the ground.


“I’m going to be done planting before I would normally start planting corn,” Cerny said.


He is “weeks” ahead of last year’s planting schedule, he said.


The biggest holdup was the inability of seed companies to keep up with demand, Cerny said. A lot of seed corn is produced in South America during the North American winter. Seed companies got “caught with their pants down” trying to meet local farmers’ pace this season, he said.


Cerny said he can’t imagine planting conditions being any better than they have been this year.


That’s coming from a man who in October said, “It’s probably about as bad as I’ve seen it.”


That was Cerny’s description of last fall’s cold, wet and delayed harvest.


Only about 80 percent of last year’s local corn crop matured before the killing frost, UW Extension crops and soils agent Jim Stute said at the time.


In retrospect, that wasn’t such a bad thing.


UW Extension corn agronomist Joe Lauer said yields improved in corn left standing over the winter in a test study.


Corn that started at 42 percent moisture in October dried down to 12.4 percent moisture in April, Lauer said.


Marketable corn tests at about 15 percent moisture.


The Extension isn’t recommending farmers leave corn in the field, Lauer said. The corn in the study was a special, genetically modified hybrid, he said.


But from what Lauer has learned from producers, things turned out OK for farmers who left their corn standing over the winter.


According to US Department of Agriculture statistics, Wisconsin farmers plan to plant more corn this year than last year.


The USDA doesn’t break down data by county, but across the state, farmers in March reported they intended to 3.90 million acres of corn. That’s an increase of 50,000 acres over last year.


Wisconsin farmers in March planned to plant 1.55 million acres of soybeans this year. That’s a 5 percent decrease from last year’s planting, according to USDA data.


Across the United States, farmers plan to grow the largest crop ever of soybeans: 78.1 million acres, according to USDA data.


On a less technical note, Cerny said the nice weather might be inspiring local farmers to plant more corn than soybeans this year.


“Farmers like to plant corn,” Cerny said. “They might get it in the ground just because the weather is so good.”


Farmers like corn because corn hybrids have yielded more consistently and better than soybeans in the last decade, Cerny said.


And corn goes in the ground earlier than beans.


So, while the weather has been nice, they’ve been planting what they can, Cerny said.


While Cerny is enjoying his job for the moment, it’s a long time until harvest, he said.


“We’ve got it made now,” Cerny said. “We have not gone through the heat. We have not gone through the bugs, the disease pressure. You never know what we’ll get, and that’s what keeps us going.”



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