- Associated Press - Monday, May 5, 2014

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Iowa and Nebraska farmers say they’re still on track to get their corn planted despite cold, wet weather that slowed their start to the planting season.

Numbers released Monday from the U.S. Department of Agriculture show 23 percent of Iowa’s corn crop has been planted. That’s up significantly from last week’s 15 percent planted.

The percentage likely will rise quickly this week, as farmers have several warm, dry days before rain returns to the forecast.

Chad Hart, an agriculture economist at Iowa State University, said the next few weeks will be crucial for farmers to get the crop sown. Corn should be in the ground by late April or early May, he said, and further delay could increase the risk of reducing yield or harming the crop.

“We’re not in desperate times yet,” he said. “The idea is that each day or two we get delayed, we lose a bit of that optimal timeframe.”

Jerry Main, a southeast Iowa farmer who plants both corn and soybeans, said he started planting his corn just before heavy rains and severe storms swept across Iowa late last month. The weather hindered his ability to get seeds down during what he called the “prime-time to plant corn,” which farmers and agriculture experts generally agree to begin around April 20.

Still, Main said the short delay won’t have much of an effect, if any, on the crop’s yield this fall.

“I haven’t been losing any sleep over it,” Main said. “We’re in good shape, really. We’re getting the crop down.”

Bruce Rohwer, a farmer near the northwestern Iowa town of Paullina, says his goal is to finish planting by Tuesday. Conditions have been ideal for planting in northwest Iowa, he said, but other areas of the state may be running farther behind due to varying weather conditions and rainfall.

Main also said his goal is to finish planting by Tuesday.

Nebraska is closer to completion, with 44 percent of its corn crop planted. Kelly Brunkhorst, Nebraska Corn Board’s director of research, said he doesn’t foresee any major complications or delays in getting the rest of Nebraska’s fields seeded. He said he predicts three-fourths of the fields in the state should be planted by the third week of May, with planting completely wrapping up by the end of the month.

Hart said finishing up corn planting is the main focus right now, because soybean crop can be planted well into June and endure the hot summer months. Corn, on the other hand, undergoes a pollination process a couple months into its growing season. If planted too late, Hart said the scorching heat associated with late July and early August could affect this process, typically resulting in a yield loss come harvest time.

Another concern with delayed planting is the risk of crops being affected by the first freeze in the fall, Hart said. If corn is still growing when temperatures drop, for example, the plant is likely to die, he said.

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