The best corn I've seen so far this year was in the Beck's Hybrids date of planting study at Atlanta. Toby Ripberger showed me around, and it didn't talk long to determine that the biggest and healthiest looking corn was planted while the calendar still said March. The soybeans planted then didn't look too shabby either.
April plantings of soybeans and corn looked good too. The planting suffering the worst was planted May 12, especially for corn. The stand wasn't quite measuring up. Every year there is a couple of days that are the wrong time to plant. Sonny Beck taught me that philosophy years ago, and he's right. This year it appears it was May 11 and May 12, at least in central Indiana. Heavy rains later caused crusting. Of course, the catch is that you don't know when those two days are every year until hindsight kicks in.
On the other hand, it would be easy to find farmers willing to trade and take any fields planted May 11 or 12, no matter if the stand was perfect or not. That's because many didn't get an opportunity to plant anything until Memorial Day weekend, or very close to it. And believe it or not, there are still excellent farmers waiting as you read this to finish planting corn. Some haven't planted the first single soybean.
It's not because of something they did wrong. We know of one farmer who's made many strategic moves to get extra help and extra equipment, only to be thwarted by Mother Nature every time. And as late as June 2, one Vincennes farmer who works part-time and plants 600 acres on the home farm had only 120 acres planted. And of that, he figured to replant quite a bit. Water had been out over some of it, even before he could get everything planted.
Not everyone is in such dire straits. Corn along the Ohio River was in and doing well when we visited Switzerland County in mid-May. Even the soybeans were in. But the catch is that farmers say if those droughty soils aren't planted by then, they're likely to be in real trouble by the middle of the growing season when hot weather arrives.
Farmers in northwest Indiana were doing well, until about three weeks ago. Then heavy rains hit many of them. Farmers who pride themselves on finishing planting the first of May, if not before, still have soybeans to plant, according to reliable sources. Soils simply weren't dry enough.
Of those fields that are planted, it's not tough to find corn that doesn't look too attractive. Tall corn, short corn and simply yellow corn are easy to spot. So is purple corn. Purdue University agronomist Bob Nielsen has seen so much of it that he pulled out a piece he did on it two years ago and posted it on the Chat'n Chew Website. He thinks it may be due to bright, sunny days and too cool nights. Time will tell.
Some farmers might like to have that problem. They haven't seen enough sun in the last week or so to get corn growing that well.
No matter what your status at the moment, don't despair. You need only go back to last year to find a season where planting was delayed; replanting was prevalent due to historic flooding, temperatures stayed cool all the way until the end of August, yet yields were at or above trend lines.
Will history repeat itself? Here's hoping the glass is half full, not half empty in 2009.