Corn planting behind last year, but moving forward quickly

May 16, 2019 GMT

SCOTTSBLUFF — Farmers are taking advantage of the warmer weather this week to catch up on planting delayed by several weeks of cold, wet weather.

Kurt Schaneman was working a field on Highland Road north of Minatare Wednesday afternoon and stopped to check the seed depth on his drill.

“It’s been a wet spring, but we’re rolling now,” Schaneman said. “We’ll see where we’re at after Thursday and Friday.”

Approximately 46 percent of the Nebraska’s corn was planted as of Sunday, according to USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, well behind last year’s 68 percent and the five-year average of 72 percent. Only 9 percent of the corn crop had emerged, behind 23 percent last year and 26 percent for the five-year average. Last week there were only 2.7 days suitable for fieldwork across the state. The week before saw 4.4 days.


Sugarbeet planting is 99 percent completed, Jerry Darnell, Western Sugar’s vice president of agriculture, south region, said Wednesday. With that out of the way, farmers are starting to focus on getting corn in the ground.

“People are really going after corn planting right now with this window of dry weather we’re having,” said John Thomas, UNL cropping systems extension educator. “I’d say 30 to 40 percent of the corn is planted, and a lot is going to happen this week.”

Thomas said he has not seen much in terms of emergence, but said to give it time.

“You get this warm weather, and it will start popping pretty quickly,” he said. “If you plant corn or beets and it’s really cold and wet, that seed will sit in the ground for a long time and not come up until things start to get warm.”

Soil temperatures also factor heavily into the emergence equation. Thomas said that soil temperatures for the previous week were up 46 to 47 degrees at an inch-depth, and the 80 degree temperatures this week will only increase soil temperatures.

Dry edible beans planting will start around the end of May, but farmers who have not planted corn by that time will likely be delayed on planting beans.

“If you’re late planting corn, there are varieties that have a shorter season to reach maturity,” Thomas said. “If guys get really late, they’ll move to some of those shorter season varieties.”

Thomas said that short season varieties might yield somewhat less at harvest, but not by much.

“They’ve been able to get some of those shorter season varieties to yield fairly well,” he said.

Schaneman said he sells seed corn, and plants about five different varieties over 700 acres. As of Wednesday, he was planting a 103-day variety, and said he had about 300 acres left to plant.


“As it gets closer to the end of May, you’ll want to start shortening it up a little bit,” he said. “One hundred three (days) is a little long for right now, but where we’ve got the moisture, I think it will be OK.”

In addition to corn, Schaneman said he has about 330 acres of sugarbeets planted which have started to emerge, and around 300 acres of white beans, which he’ll start planting around Memorial Day.

“Beans are a finicky crop,” he said. “You plant too early and you’ll get hailed off, but if you plant them too late, they’ll freeze.”

NASS reports that topsoil moisture supplies rated 0 percent very short, 4 percent short, 79 percent adequate, and 17 percent surplus. Subsoil moisture supplies rated 0 percent very short, 2 percent short, 84 percent adequate, and 14 percent surplus.

In the Panhandle, moisture availability has high variability due to differences in terrain and soil types.

“If you’re talking about a flat field where the snow always blew off, you may see some lack of subsoil (moisture),” Thomas said. “By and large, we have good subsoil moisture, and we have had good surface moisture, and fortunately things are drying out a on the surface enough to get things planted.”

The NOAA Climate Prediction Center one month outlook shows a 40 percent probability for above average precipitation in May. The eight to 14 day outlook released Tuesday shows a 50 percent probability for below average temperatures through the end of the month. The National Weather Service in Cheyenne has forecast a 50 percent chance of precipitation Friday afternoon and evening, with a cooler weekend and showers and thunderstorms heading into next week.

As of May 12, winter wheat condition in Nebraska rated 1 percent very poor, 3 percent poor, 29 percent fair, 58 percent good, and 9 percent excellent. Winter wheat headed was 2 percent, near 1 percent last year, but behind the average of 12 percent.

Based on May 1 conditions, NASS reported that Nebraska’s 2019 winter wheat crop is forecast at 50 million bushels, up 1 percent from last year. Average yield is forecast at 50 bushels per acre, up 1 bushel from last year.

Acreage to be harvested for grain is estimated at 1 million acres, down 10,000 acres from last year. This would be 91 percent of the planted acres, below last year’s 92 percent harvested.

May 1 hay stocks of 1,070,000 tons are up 53 percent from last year.

Pasture and range conditions rated 1 percent very poor, 3 percent poor, 18 percent fair, 69 percent good, and 9 percent excellent.