Field Work Roundup

Replant, Crop Health and Markets Weigh on Farmers' Minds

Emily Unglesbee
By  Emily Unglesbee , DTN Staff Reporter
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Colorado farmer Jill Lambert gets ready to move the planter to another field. She is one of many growers that have faced a number of weather delays this spring. (DTN photo by Pam Smith)

ROCKVILLE, Md. (DTN) -- As some growers finish planting, and others start their second effort, crop conditions and the market frustrations are weighing heavily on their minds, farmers told DTN.

Jill Lambert of Brush, Colorado, summed up many growers' experiences to date: "Planting this year proves to be a struggle for us," she said.

Normally, planting on her family farm starts May 10, but rains have delayed progress multiple times in the past month. Then a hail event in late May shredded 400 acres of fully headed wheat fields into match-size pieces, said Lambert, who farms alongside her father, Doug Queen, and uncle, Gary.

They have just 70 acres of wet ground left to plant to corn as of June 2, but more rain was in the forecast.

Farther east, Jeff Littrell's travels have taken him down to Missouri, Kentucky and Tennessee from southeast Minnesota, and he's not impressed by what he's seen.

"The stage this crop is at from an hour north of St Louis to Cadiz, Kentucky, is scary," he said. "If I was in the market -- and I'm not -- it's not going to be a good crop."

SECOND TIME ISN'T THE CHARM

Things are looking good for some growers. Scott Wallis has wrapped up planting in Princeton, Indiana, and most crops are coming along nicely in his area. Likewise, northwest Iowa farmer Jay Magnussen is done planting, and -- fingers crossed for some wet spots -- he has no solid plans for replanting yet.

Most of the growers DTN reached out to did have at least some level of replanting done or in the works, however.

"It isn't nearly as much fun the second time," Illinois farmer John Werries noted dryly. Werries is patching soybeans into fields planted just before the big April rains in west-central Illinois.

To his east, Ohio farmer Keith Peters has replanted 180 out of 900 corn acres, and in Indiana, Scott Wallis is re-seeding 550 of their 2,600 acres.

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Sometimes the replanting has been as challenging as the first go-around. After re-seeding 150 corn acres, Indiana farmer Randal Plummer set out to replant 400 soybean acres.

"We only got 100 done when we got rained out," he said. "Now more have emerged in the last week, so the verdict is still out on them. They were in the ground for over a month and still came up. Who knew!"

Given the cold, wet conditions that pushed so many farmers to these levels of replant, it's no surprise that the corn crop isn't looking its best.

"Corn is spotty in places," said northwest Iowa farmer Jay Magnussen. "I think the stand has been reduced from wet conditions during emergence. The soil temperature actually dropped below 50 degrees early last week, according to ISU soil temp monitors. That's quite concerning for me given the calendar date."

Werries came to a firm conclusion after sidedressing his corn acres this week: "No record corn yields on this farm for this year," he said.

"In order to attain the big corn yields like we had in 2014, conditions must be nearly perfect throughout the growing season," he explained. "We don't have a perfect cornfield anywhere. A few plants missing, a few latecomers, and the drowned-out spots."

MARKETS AREN'T IMPRESSED

USDA, not always known for its responsiveness to field conditions, rated this year's corn condition the lowest in four years.

Yet even with modest gains late in the week, corn and soybean prices remain lodged deep in $3- and $9-territory, respectively.

That's demoralizing for growers who are spending time and resources on multiple plantings for what are certain to be low or negative returns.

"Prices have me extremely worried," said Peters. He still has a significant chunk of his old-crop corn to price and is facing disappointing early bean sales this year. "If Chicago doesn't try to kill this crop at least once, there's going to be a ton of red ink around here," he said.

WEEDS ARE HAPPY, AT LEAST

Halting planting progress plus delayed or missed herbicide passes equals one thriving crop of weeds for many Midwest and Southern farmers this year.

Spraying has often taken a backseat to planting during small fieldwork windows between rains, said Loren Hopkins, who farms in northeast Ohio.

Soggy, cool soils have not been helpful to the herbicide applications that did get applied.

"I had some marestail break through my burndown of dicamba on corn ground," Peters said. "I sprayed it right before all the rain and cold weather."

Magnussen has made his first dicamba spray applications in Xtend soybeans, but he's urging caution to growers as post-emergence applications ramp up in June.

"We followed all label requirements and everything went well," he said. "I am happy it worked out the way it was supposed to, but after doing the first one, I am concerned with all the label requirements and how difficult it will be to follow them during the post spraying season," he added.

"It's something to keep an eye on."

Emily Unglesbee can be reached at Emily.unglesbee@dtn.com

Follow Emily Unglesbee on Twitter @Emily_Unglesbee

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Emily Unglesbee