Weather cooperating with farmers
Yes, it's been a long, cold, lonely winter, but if the sun and warmth continue here this week, farmers say their crops will soon be looking more than all right.
Aside from some corn plants lacking a little in color (some turned yellowish during the cold and wet weather last week), the corn looks great, said Mark Crawford, who started planting corn around April 15 and finished earlier this month.
"One of the best stands ever," he said.
Forecasts are calling for a slight chance of rain today, but most of the coming days will be sunny with temperatures in the 70s — that's welcome news for the farmers.
"These should be good growing days for the corn," said Bruce Darr, who farms near Fairmount.
He filled up his planter with soybean seeds on Tuesday morning and for the first time since last week's cold, wet weather, drove to the fields for a round of planting in the afternoon.
Thanks to the sun's rays and the wind — which was strong enough to frequently blow Darr's hat off his head — any fields still soaking wet started to dry.
"I think we've got a good window through the week. It's the best week we've had for a while. There will be a lot of catchup in the next four to five days," said Crawford, who farms from Rossville to Oakwood and Fairmount.
With his corn all planted, he also turned on his planter Tuesday and is focusing now on soybeans.
"I think we're on track for an excellent crop so far. So far, especially for corn, we've had good weather," he said.
Area farmers said they are fortunate compared with their colleagues to the north. Elsewhere in the state, especially north of Ford and Iroquois counties, farmers are behind in planting corn.
In Illinois, 84 percent of the corn has been planted and across the country that number was almost 75 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. So far, about 60 percent of the corn in Illinois has emerged from the soil, nearly twice the national rate.
"Anytime you have a winter like we have had, it usually ends up making for an interesting spring," said Matt Barnard, who farms near Chenoa in McLean County. On Tuesday, he was headed to the fields to check on any possible spots where he might need to replant corn that suffered damage from flooding or cold temperatures.
"We'll see. We're optimistic. Last year, we raised a wonderful crop," even though planting was delayed because of the cold and wet spring in 2013, Barnard said.
"Right now, the genetics in the seed allow crop to withstand a lot more than in the past," he said.
Some farms near Crawford last week received as much as four inches of rain in one day, but he was fortunate this year, with his fields averaging closer to two inches.
"These modern hybrids have good vigor for emergence — and that helps a lot," he said.
In a perfect world, there will continue to be small rain showers, which will keep the ground nice and moist, and there will be plenty of warmth, Crawford said.
For farmers, their future lies with weather, temperature and other factors not in their hands, Darr said.
"It's just up to the good lord, really," he said.
Darr urged farmers and drivers in rural areas to use caution in the coming weeks. With farm equipment getting bigger in recent years, it's important for everyone to be extra careful, he said.