SAYBROOK - Farmer J.C. Zimmerman believes it when his wife says he's hard to live with right now. The Saybrook man has 180 acres of corn, or about a quarter of his crop, left to plant this season. He can remember years past when the seed wasn't planted until Memorial Day, but that date would be a late finish compared to the last few years.
Already figuring he'll experience some yield loss on corn that's not planted yet, Zimmerman has begun to get a little impatient. But he has to fight the urge to trudge ahead, so he doesn't mess up his ground and hurt his whole crop year.
"It's hard to stay out of the wet ground, but it's something you have to do," Zimmerman said. "We're still OK here."
Though local farmers are ahead of the game compared to some of their counterparts in other parts of the state, planting season still drags on in Central Illinois after scattered showers and cooler temperatures have kept fields too wet for farmers to do their work, said John Hawkins, spokesman for the Illinois Farm Bureau in Bloomington.
Farmers in the Central District of Illinois, which includes McLean County, have planted 85 percent of the corn crop and 26 percent of their soybeans as of Sunday, according to the Illinois Agricultural Statistics Service. Statewide, growers have planted 75 percent of the corn crop, down from 97 percent last year and the five-year average of 94 percent.
As some farmers try to get the final corn in the ground, the Illinois soybean crop is in its early stages with 15 percent of fields planted, compared to 66 percent in 2007 and 53 percent for the five-year average. Although bean planting also is behind the average, that crop is less sensitive to planting dates.
"It's not warm. That's what we need this time of year to dry a lot of these (fields)," Hawkins said.
Another day or two
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Most farmers in Central Illinois likely only need another day or two to finish their corn planting, said Dan Patten, assistant vice president and farm manager with Soy Capital Ag Services in Bloomington.
Growers who plant corn this week could lose almost 10 percent of their maximum yield potential, Patten said, citing research from the University of Illinois. Farmers potentially could lose 13 percent of their yields after Sunday and 19 percent after May 30.
However, with the amount of corn already in the ground, Patten doesn't expect the county as a whole to suffer from the wet spring. He also thinks spring just may be a little late this year.
Simply because a planting date is ideal during long-term research doesn't mean it's right for the short-term, said farmer Matt Hughes of Shirley. Farmers who finish the corn crop this week will be done late in the year, but "it won't be devastating," Hughes said. "It could still be really good corn. … You can't get too caught up on the calendar date."
Surprisingly, because of the lack of heat lately, the planted corn looks nice, said Hughes, who finished his corn planting two weeks ago and has been waiting for the right opportunity to plant soybeans. This year's corn has been a little slower to emerge and looked pale at first, Hughes said. But after a couple warm days, the corn began to grow faster and gain a healthier green look, he said.
"Corn really looks good for what it's been through," Hughes said.
Patten reported the same good news for most of McLean County. He also had been worried about corn's growth because of the weather, but his fears look to be unfounded.
"Everything we've planted so far, for the most part, looks to be pretty good," Patten said.