Crops Insights

Farmer’s Life: Sometimes, we need to wait out the rain


It’s Monday, May 1, about half our corn crop is in the ground, and it rained 2.5 inches since Friday afternoon bringing planting to a halt on our farm and throughout much of the Midwest. It isn’t terrible here, although I’m a little concerned about the seeds in the ground being a bit chilly. Today is a sunny day even though the high is only 56 degrees. Should be a decent drying day. Some places have it worse especially to the South and West. I’ve seen reports of double digit rainfalls in Illinois and Missouri, and pictures I’ve seen on social media show south of Indianapolis got it pretty hard too.

So planters are in the shed for the time being across the corn belt, but what does that mean? It’s not early to be planting now, but it isn’t super late either. In theory, the best time to start planting corn is the third week of April where I am in Northern Indiana. Some of our best crops the last several years haven’t seen planting start until May, so I’m not worried about the calendar date yet. The big issue for those hit hardest by this last storm will be whether or not they need to plant fields or parts of fields a second time. It isn’t too late to replant corn, and soybean planting can be pushed into June if need be. Sometimes corn acres get planted to beans if the weather pushes seeding toward late May or June.

Beads of rainwater on the John Deere. (Image by Brian Scott)

Our corn already in the soil should be fine. There are chances of rain in the forecast later this week, and high temps don’t get much better than today for a week out. So it will take several days to dry the soil, and to put some heat back in it to get germination going strong. I took the scenic route to the shop this morning past a few of our fields. Here, there isn’t much standing water to speak of, and a lot of what is there will drain away today and tomorrow. I do have about 300 acres of cereal rye cover crop to watch closely with this weather. The intention is to plant green in those acres and terminate the cover right at or after planting. If we do get dry but rain is on the horizon, I may pull the trigger earlier than planned to keep that cover under control if weather is going to keep equipment out of those fields.

So we are wet now, but it’s a long way to harvest yet with most of our seed in the shop and not in the soil. The Midwest was itching to start planting as early spring didn’t drown us, but kept us just wet enough to prevent field work right up until it was ideal time for planters to roll. It’s kind of frustrating going from 0-100 and back to 0 again within a week, but that’s the way it goes sometimes. The week of February temperatures in the seventies gave us all spring fever a month early this year. The big storm system that rolled through probably did hurt some, but not surprisingly the grain markets took a bump upwards this morning so there’s that.

Readers will see this post in mid-May. What will our planting progress be by then? I don’t know. We might be done planting and I’ll have moved onto sidedressing corn. Maybe these regular rains will continue, and we will have to get done what we can in between. Only time will tell. Such is farming!


Brian Scott raises corn, soybeans, popcorn, wheat, and kids on an Indiana farm and blogs under the name The Farmer’s Life. His goal is to promote the virtues of modern agriculture and feature the operations of his farm.

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