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Archive for Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Eastern Kansas farmers pushing to get corn crops in ahead of rains

April 23, 2014

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Area farmers have been taking advantage of the past week's relatively dry, warm weather to get their corn crops in the ground, putting this year's planting season weeks ahead of last year's.

By Sunday about 44 percent of the region's corn crop had been planted, according to the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service, or NASS, crop progress report for the east central district of Kansas, which includes Douglas County.

That puts the area ahead of the state, which had 21 percent of its corn planted, and ahead of the national average, which, with 6 percent of the corn in the ground, has been lagging because of cool, wet weather in northern corn belt states.

"I think this last week we had quite a few acres put in," said Bill Wood, director of the Douglas County extension office. "It's dry enough and warming up a little bit. What was holding us back before was the cool weather."

With the ground dry and soil temperatures warming up after a harsh winter, some farmers were finishing up their corn planting on Wednesday before predicted rainstorms had a chance to roll in and stop them.

Jason Flory, of May-Way Farms near Baldwin City, said Wednesday morning that he was trying to finish the season's planting by noon that day. "We've been planting for about a week and are getting done today," Flory said. "The soil it's going into is in really good condition."

"Last year it was cool and damp, and we got a real late start," Flory added. "We're about three weeks ahead of where we were last year."

Kansas had just 5 percent of its crop in by this point last year. An unusually wet spring pushed much of the planting season well into May.

Mike Wintermantel, who farms and runs livestock south of Lawrence, also said he was trying to finish his corn planting Wednesday. "We're trying to get it done before it rains," he said.

Flory and Wintermantel both said some rain would be welcome once their seeds are in the ground. "We need general rains," Wintermantel said. "But we don't want it to rain for months straight."

And the farmers could get their rain. On Wednesday the National Weather Service was predicting a chance for storms every day through Sunday in Lawrence and surrounding areas.

The whole state could use the moisture. Most of eastern Kansas was still in moderate drought as of April 15, and central and western Kansas were in severe and extreme drought, according to the most recent U.S. Drought Monitor report.

As a result farmers in western Kansas only have around 10 percent of their corn in, and farmers in northwestern Kansas have only planted one percent of their crop.

"They're holding off before they put that expensive seed in the ground," said Jason Lamprecht, a state statistician with the USDA's NASS Kansas field office.

Out west more farmers irrigate, which gives them more control over when they can plant, Lamprecht said. But turning on the irrigation spigots is a costly proposition if they can wait to get some rain for free.

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