Indiana farmers are entering the growing season with a significant head start.
According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, 24 percent of Indiana corn has been planted as of April 15. For the last four years, the average amount planted at this time of year was 2 percent. Five percent of soybeans have also been planted.
Mic Roush, a spokesman for the Grant County Farm Bureau, said many local farmers got off to an early start because of the “very, very strange weather.” The National Weather Service reported record high temperatures around Fort Wayne and the surrounding area throughout March.
“Some farmers are done with corn and on their way with soybeans,” he said. “Others have just started with corn.”
Roush said many plantings were started in early April, which he called “very non-typical.” Planting corn during the third or fourth week of April, though still early, is much more “typical,” he said.
Marion farmer Joe Manwell said all his corn planting was already finished.
“Last year we didn’t start planting (corn) until May,” he said. “We’re way ahead of last year. A lot of people I know are either done planting or close to done.”
Farmers got a late start to planting last year because of the unusually wet spring weather. Late into May 2011, only about a third of the corn crop across the state was planted.
Roush said though there has been some recent rainfall, it has not made the fields unfit to plant.
The 2012 USDA “Prospective Plantings” report predicts that farmers will plant 4 percent more total acreage of corn this year. Indiana alone is expected to plant 200,000 more acres than last year.
Roush said it seemed farmers in south and southwestern Grant County were farther ahead of other local farmers.
In total, U.S. corn acreage is predicted to reach 96 million acres this year. That approaches the record acreage of 97 million set in 1937.
Roush said corn prices in the commodity market are “excellent” and farmers hope for a big payoff.
“Farmers are hoping the grain markets stay up,” he said.
Corn commodity prices have been more than $6 per bushel, but have seen slight declines in recent months. However, Bloomberg reported last week that demand for corn rose after prices hit a four-month low.
The USDA reports that soybean planting will likely be down 1 percent this year. Indiana farmers are anticipated to plant 200,000 fewer acres of soybeans.
Manwell said weather conditions so far seem positive for crops, but he was aware that could change.
The National Weather Service had placed Grant County under a freeze warning until 8 a.m. today. Roush said there is still a small risk of frost damage to crops during this time of year, but the weather has been on the side of the farmers so far this year.
“We’re at the mercy of something beyond our control,” Manwell said.