And the Planters Roll

Corn planting continues at a record pace, 63% of the nation’s corn crop is in the ground and 18% has already emerged. Compiled by staff

Published on: May 5, 2004

Despite a recent cold snap across much of the Midwest, corn planting continues at a record pace, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) May 3 crop progress report. Moderate freezes earlier this week affected emerged corn in some areas, but producers across the Corn Belt say weather and soil conditions have otherwise been favorable.

USDA says 63% of this year’s corn crop was already in the ground by May 2, up from 47% at the same time last year and well ahead of the five-year average of 40%.

David Ward, who farms near Mapleton, Minn., says growers in south-central Minnesota finished planting corn earlier than usual this year. Statewide, 71% of corn acreage has already been planted, up from 64% at the same time last year. Minnesota’s five-year average for May 2 corn plantings is 46%.

"All the corn in this area is planted, which puts us about a week to 10 days ahead," Ward says. "I’m done with corn and about halfway finished with beans. The ground conditions have been excellent and surface moisture has been adequate. Now all we need is a little rain this weekend."

Ward may get his wish, as USDA’s weather forecast is calling for warmer air and scattered showers across much of the Corn Belt later this week. "By the end of this week, I would suspect just about everything in Minnesota is going to be in the ground," he says. "Things are really going well."

Planting in Illinois is also expected to wrap up this week, according to USDA. By May 2, 82% of the state’s corn crop had already been planted, up from 62% last year. The state’s five-year average is 47%.

"We’re well ahead of schedule and conditions have been just right so far," says McLean, Ill., grower Ron Fitchhorn last week.

Producers in the northwestern reaches of the Corn Belt are also ahead of schedule. Bart Schott, who farms near Kulm, N.D., says he began planting early this week. He says farmers in the far eastern part of the state started planting last week. USDA reports 48% of the state’s corn crop is already planted, up from 40% a year ago.

"We’re just getting started," he says. "It’s kind of early for us, but soil conditions are adequate. We’re looking at another cool spring here this year, so we held off a little bit, but we’re still going to be about five to seven days ahead of normal."

North Dakota growers are planting more corn than usual this year, Schott says, because of corn prices and other commodity prices relative to corn. "It’s looking like we’re going to have record corn acreage again this year," he says. "We’re seeing a shift away from wheat and it looks like corn is the big winner up here this year."

Of the top 18 corn-producing states, only three -- Colorado, Ohio and Wisconsin -- are behind last year’s planting pace. According to USDA, none of those 18 states had finished planting by May 2, though Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas were all more than 80% complete.

In southern states like North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas, more than half of the corn planted has already emerged. Nationwide, 18% of the corn crop had emerged by May 2, USDA reports.