Planting seed while the sun shines

A farmer northeast of Shipshewana raised a couple of dust plumes while planting corn in this file photo from May 2018. Wet conditions across the Midwest prevented farmers from fully planting fields this year.

Severe weather prevented many farmers from planting as much crop as usual, as the United States Department of Agriculture reported a record 19.4 million acres were unplanted this year, the most since the national survey was started in 2007.

In Steuben, DeKalb, Noble and LaGrange counties, about 9% of local farmland went unplanted, according to data collected as of Aug. 1.

Of those prevented plant acres, more than 73% were in 12 Midwestern states, where heavy rainfall and flooding this year has prevented many producers from planting mostly corn, soybeans and wheat.

Indiana was one of those 12 states, where farmers missed out on planting about 944,000 acres of farmland. Farmers were able to plant about 10.64 million acres, making the statewide miss rate about 8%.

“Agricultural producers across the country are facing significant challenges and tough decisions on their farms and ranches,” USDA Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation Bill Northey said. “We know these are challenging times for farmers, and we have worked to improve flexibility of our programs to assist producers prevented from planting.”

Of the close to 1 million acres that went unplanted in Indiana, missed corn crop accounted for most of it. Farmers planted about 5 million acres of corn, but missed out on planting about 709,000 acres.

Hoosier farmers planted slightly more soybeans compared to corn, 5.36 million acres, with a smaller unplanted amount of just 331,000 acres.

Indiana’s third biggest crop, wheat, makes up only a fraction of the state’s agricultural product. Farmers planted 276,000 acres and were prevented from planting only 3,600 acres.

Regionally, the Farm Service Agency survey accounted for 5,612 farms in DeKalb, LaGrange, Noble and Steuben counties.

In the four-county area, farmers successfully planted 416,619 acres. Farmers reported they were prevented from planting on approximately 43,350 acres, while 536 acres failed and 1,770 were not planted.

DeKalb and Steuben counties were more heavily affected than the other two. In DeKalb County, farmers planted 118,268 acres, but were prevented from planting on 21,100 acres, about 15%. In Steuben County, 79,961 acres were planted, with farmers prevented from planting on 17,425 acres, about 18%.

Noble County was less affected, with farmers only missing out on 3,779 acres while planting 131,847, while in LaGrange County farmers successfully planted 86,543 acres while only missing 1,046 acres.

To make up for fields that were unable to be planted due to weather conditions, the USDA has been offering additional support to farmers to plant cover crops in order to help prevent soil erosion, protect water quality and boost soil health.

More producers have been taking advantage this year, with 2.71 million acres of cover crops planted so far in 2019, compared with 2.14 million acres at this time in 2018 and 1.88 million at this time in 2017.

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