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Timely rain leaves cornfields ‘almost perfect’

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Bartholomew County corn and soybean farmers were dealt a losing hand by drought last year, but most growers are optimistic this year will provide better results and stronger yields for two of the state’s key cash crops.

“The rains have been timely enough, and most of the crop that has emerged so far is in good shape. Things are almost perfect right now,” said Randy Weinantz, who grows corn, soybeans and a little wheat on 1,200 acres near Edinburgh.

“I’d say at this point I’m optimistic,” said area farmer Roger Glick, who finished planting 600 acres of corn last week. Glick likes the fact that corn prices have held steady above $5 a bushel for fall delivery and that today’s prices are around $7 per bushel for immediate delivery.

Glick held back selling some of his corn crop last year, choosing to keep it in storage after a season in which many Indiana growers saw fields decimated by unrelenting heat and too little rain.

“It may be time to take advantage of that old crop,” said Glick, who typically stores a sizable portion of his corn crop in an attempt to time the market for a better sales price.

This year, Glick said, some farmers in Iowa, parts of Minnesota and the Dakotas may not be able to plant as much corn as they had hoped due to flooding issues. If that continues, some corn won’t get planted in time for fall harvest.

“Already, we have estimates that 2 million to 4 million acres that were intended for planting aren’t going to happen at all,” Glick said last week. That trend could keep corn prices firm well into the fall and help Indiana growers who were forced to tap crop insurance last year bounce back.

“Last year was the worst we have ever seen in terms of yield lost,” said Bob Nielsen, a Purdue Extension corn specialist.

He said corn farmers planted their crops early in 2012 due to dry weather early in the spring, but rains didn’t materialize over the summer and crops were damaged.

This year, planting has run behind last year’s pace, Nielsen said, but by the end of last week most of the corn crop was in the ground except for parts of southern Indiana where heavier rains put growers well behind.

In Bartholomew County, though, area farmers said nearly all the corn crop was planted before the past weekend’s rainy weather, and that could be a good sign for the rest of the growing season.

“All things considered, and especially looking into the rear-view mirror, most growers are fairly pleased with the way things are going at this point. The corn that has emerged or that’s up and growing looks nice around the state,” Nielsen said. “What we need now is one inch of rain here and there to keep soil moisture where it should be.

“A lot of folks are feeling pretty good at this point and crossing their fingers hoping that it keeps up,” he said.

For the week ended May 26, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that Indiana farmers had planted 86 percent of their intended corn acreage and that more than half of the crop had “emerged.”

Soybean planting in Indiana was trailing behind corn’s pace, the agency said. Soybean farmers had planted 60 percent of that crop by May 26, compared with the five-year Indiana average of 49 percent. Soybeans typically are planted after corn, though.

In Bartholomew County, Weinantz said he started planting corn at the end of April and wrapped up last Thursday. In 2012, dry weather allowed him to start planting in early April, but the early start didn’t help in the end.

“The price was high last year, but most people didn’t have the crop to sell,” he said. “Crop insurance pulled us through.

“You really have to be optimistic to stay in this business,” said Weinantz, who grows seed corn, popcorn and field corn on roughly half his acreage. “There are more people born every day, and somebody has to feed them.”

Area grower Bill Gelfius said his corn crop “is coming up very good” so far, and he’s optimistic 2013 will produce solid yields if the weather cooperates.

“You never have two years of drought in a row, at least the chances of that are slim,” he said.

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