ROCKVILLE, Md. (DTN) -- From Missouri to Minnesota and in between, many planting efforts are stalled thanks to cool, soggy conditions. Farmers are finishing up burndown and pre-emergence herbicide sprays as well as fertilizer applications.
Jeff Littrell, who farms with his son in southeast Minnesota, summed up the Corn Belt's status after a long drive to St. Louis.
"We get to see lots of farm country, and this trip down was very odd this year with very little if any activity going until the Macomb, Illinois, area," he told DTN in an email.
There are pockets of productivity, of course. With two-thirds of their corn seed in the ground, Scott Wallis' operation in southern Indiana is humming right along. And over in Virginia, Stephen Ellis has finished planting full-season soybeans and is nearing the end of his corn planting.
Most growers told DTN they were actively applying herbicides and fertilizer or wrapping up these field-prep activities. Some expressed concerns at growers who have rushed to get herbicide applications on in questionable conditions, especially given the strict labels for new dicamba herbicides.
SLOW PLANTING, CHILLY CORN
On Monday, USDA estimated that corn planting across the country had slowed to 6%, behind the five-year average of 9% and half of the 2016 pace of 12%.
"It's been a variable week for rainfall across the Midwest," noted DTN Senior Ag Meteorologist Bryce Anderson. One to 2 inches have fallen on the northern and western Corn Belt, with a drier trend favoring the south-central and eastern areas, such as central Illinois through Indiana and Ohio, he said.
Farmers from eight Corn Belt states told DTN via email that they were waiting for warmer and drier soils to start planting.
Ohio farmers Keith Peters and Jan Layman haven't seen much corn going in the ground in central and west-central Ohio, respectively. Over in northwest Indiana, Randy Plummer has seen "next to nothing planted," and the planters are still parked where Gerald Gauck farms in the southwest corner of the state.
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It's too cold for most corn growers' tastes in North Dakota, farmer Dave Kjelstrup noted. But at least one Michigan grower expects planters to start rolling next week.
"As an agronomist and farmer, I am worried about this corn that is in the ground," added Jay Magnussen, who farms in northwest Iowa. He estimates 5% to 10% of corn has been planted in his area.
"We have had an inch of rain in the last two days and corn seeds taking in 40- to 45-degree rainwater will see imbibitional chilling and stand loss," he said of conditions early in the week.
Lots of sprayers have been moving across the Midwest. Growers from Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Missouri said cover crops and winter annual weeds were the primary targets of herbicide applications. Fields where fall herbicide control didn't happen have proved problematic.
A handful of growers told DTN they have had to practice patience while waiting out windy conditions in March and April before they could spray.
Some may be moving too fast, warned Brian Corkill, of Galva, Illinois. He posted a picture on Twitter on April 15 of a grower running a sprayer as winds speeds clocked in at "a sustained 28 mph."
Corkill and many fellow farmers on Twitter expressed concerns that ignoring herbicide labels, especially the highly restrictive ones for new dicamba herbicides, is a dangerous game this season.
"Just because there aren't any 'crops' up, doesn't mean there aren't other sensitive plants to worry about, plus it's just plain wrong," Corkill told DTN.
FERTILIZER FILLING FIELDS
Growers are still spreading fertilizer, mostly in the form of ammonia, in Iowa, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, farmers told DTN. Corkill has just finished up his nitrogen applications in northern Illinois. Over in Indiana, Plummer took some time early in the week to give his triticale a second shot of nitrogen.
All are eager to move on to the spring season's most critical step: corn and bean planting.
"I will be planting hard when it dries and the sun comes out," Magnussen said.
"All ready to hit the field to plant as soon as it is fit!" added Corkill.
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Emily Unglesbee can be reached at Emily.email@example.com
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