April 28, 2003 | By: Laura Skillman

Farmers have gotten off to a much faster start this planting season than a year ago when wet conditions settled into the area delaying field work for several weeks.

Farmers are moving well ahead of last year’s pace with 44 percent of their corn acreage already in the ground compared to 28 percent a year ago and 11 percent above the average, according to the Kentucky Agricultural Statistics Service.

In far west Kentucky, most farmers with smaller acreages are finished and large operators are about 70 percent complete, estimated Cam Kenimer, Fulton County Extension agent for agriculture and natural resources.

That figure is about the same for grain producers in Barren County as well, said Gary Tilghman, University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension agent for agriculture and natural resources in Barren County.

“They’ve been plugging along in between showers,” he said.

Farmers in McLean County also have been dodging showers and aren’t as far along as those in southern and far west Kentucky.

“They had five good days, and they really rolled,” said Greg Henson, Extension agent for agriculture and natural resources in McLean County.

Equipment size today allows farmers to cover larger areas more quickly, he said. Henson estimated that about 25 percent of the corn is in the ground in his county.

Recent rains likely will get farmers out of the fields for several days but they will be anxious to get back to work as quickly as possible.

A timely spring planting means farmers have a better chance of receiving optimum yields, depending on how the remainder of the growing season plays out.

April 15 generally is considered the optimum planting date for corn in Kentucky. Historically, research has shown farmers can expect a one percent, per day yield loss for corn planted after May 10. So timeliness is key to a good start.

This year, Kentucky farmers are expected to plant an estimated 1.25 million acres of corn and 1.17 million acres of soybeans. Corn acreage will be the highest in three years and up 120,000 acres from last year, according to the Kentucky Agricultural Statistics Service. Soybeans will be down 9 percent or 120,000 acres from 2002 and equal to the 1995 crop.

Farmers seem to be moving toward more corn production and Henson said he expects those statistics will be similar in McLean County despite the higher cost this year for anhydrous ammonia, used as a nitrogen fertilizer.

Kenimer agreed that some of his farmers where growing more corn after corn despite the pitfalls that can cause in additional insect and disease pressure.