What a difference a year makes. As of mid-June, this crop-growing season has been just the opposite of last year. In 2012, farmers had to “hold the reins,” as planting conditions in some locations were ready to go in late March. Not so in 2013. On April 17th, the Peoria area was hit with a deluge of rain, flooding many fields and creating another work project, as some farmers had debris from trees and last year’s cornstalks stockpiled onto farm fields and plugging up drainage culverts. The heavy rains caused conservation structures like terraces and dry dams to wash out, requiring farmers to repair them before field work could begin.
As the calendar turned from April to May, farmers were getting anxious, as most corn and soybean seeds to be planted were still making contact with a paper bag instead of moist, nutrient-filled soil. For the most part, the planting window was only open for a week to 10 days in May. After another week of heavy rain fell across the state the last week of May, only 91 percent of the corn crop was in the ground, while on the soybean side, just 49 percent was planted.
During the month of May, farm fields statewide received anywhere from six to 12 inches of rain. The average annual rainfall in Illinois is 38 to 40 inches, with the southern half of the state usually receiving a few more inches than the northern half. This year, from January through the end of May, the average precipitation in Illinois was 22.6 inches. The only year wetter than this during the same time period was in 1898, when the state received an average of 23.2 inches of rainfall.
Even with the short window to plant the 2013 crop, it’s amazing how fast they were placed in the soil. How was this done so fast? Today’s modern farm equipment enables producers to go at record-setting paces. Planting equipment is larger and more accurate. Most planters are 12, 16 or 24 rows wide. With corn planted in 30-inch rows, a 16-row planter will cover a swath 40 feet wide each time it makes a pass through the field. If the tractor is pulling the planter at five miles per hour, it will cover 24 acres an hour. If the equipment is running a 12-hour day, that’s 288 acres planted in a single day. Of course, the rate will vary from field to field and farmer to farmer, but you can get a picture of the pace crops can be planted with today’s modern farm equipment.
By now, in early July, the planting window for corn and soybeans in the Peoria area has closed for the year. What’s in the ground is what will be harvested this fall.
Even if the opportunity has closed, farmers could purchase crop insurance, although they had to commit to purchasing a policy by March 15th. With insurance, there is coverage for a percentage of the revenue from an average crop if the planting deadline closes and no crop was planted. There are several stipulations in a crop insurance policy, but the bottom line is that farmers had an opportunity to protect a portion of their expected 2013 revenue. Crop insurance saved many family farms from financial hardship during last year’s drought-stricken crops. It is another useful management tool that farmers must consider when making decisions for their business. iBi