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Crops look great after spring planting delays

LAFAYETTE – Indiana’s top crops are in great shape and headed toward possibly record-breaking yields following one of the slowest and wettest planting seasons in a decade.

The federal government’s crop report released Monday shows 81 percent of Indiana’s corn crop and 75 percent of the state’s soybean crop were rated good to excellent as of Sunday.

Purdue University agricultural economist Chris Hurt said it’s too early in the growing season to make accurate yield estimates for Indiana’s corn and soybeans. But he said the fall harvest could be record-breaking if the positive weather conditions continue.

The concern on experts’ minds, however, is whether sweltering temperatures in the West will shift into the eastern part of the Corn Belt in the weeks ahead, cutting yields.

“The time period we’re coming into is very critical for yield determination,” Hurt told the Journal & Courier (http://on.jconline.com/186lrCY ). “The last time we had a crop that looked this positive, we have to look back to 2001. So we’re looking at possibly the best crop in a decade, or even something like the best crop in 15 years.”

Last year’s crops were hit by a withering drought. That was followed by this spring’s wet weather, which kept farmers on the sidelines for weeks.

A.J. Booher, who farms about 3,000 acres of corn and soybeans in Tippecanoe County, said the wet spring put him about three weeks behind in his planting. But he said recent weather has been “absolutely beautiful.”

“The crops are still a little behind, but with the rain and the perfect weather, I think we’ve got a pretty good crop coming up,” Booher said.

Regardless of Indiana’s final crop yields, they should be a significantly better than those of last year’s drought-ravaged crops. Indiana crop insurance payouts for losses that drought reached a record $1 billion.

Although Indiana’s corn and soybean crops are now thriving, Monday’s crop report shows that the state’s wheat crop isn’t faring as well. Just 32 percent of the state’s winter wheat acreage has been harvested, down from 98 percent last year and 69 percent for the five-year average.

Despite harvesting delays, wheat quality is strong, with 76 percent rated good to excellent at this time.

Purdue Extension wheat specialist Shaun Casteel said high temperatures helped move the delayed wheat to harvest, but he said the recent rains are now causing delays.

“Many farmers are anxiously waiting to get back into the field to cut the wheat and plant double-crop soybeans,” he said.

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