WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Indiana farmers getting a little break from frequent rains seized an opportunity in the first week of May to work in their fields at a time when they were weeks behind in planting.
Another, wider window might open for them next week, giving them their best chance in a month to get caught up at the end of prime time for planting of corn.
"This could be the break that farmers have been waiting for," said Ken Scheeringa, associate state climatologist, based at Purdue University.
He said although Sunday will be cooler than normal, temperatures during the week are expected to rise into the 60s and then the 70s, helping evaporation rates so soil can lose the excess moisture.
Farmers should make the most of that opportunity, too, while it is there, said Dev Niyogi, state climatologist. He said weather patterns quickly could swing from dry to abnormally wet.
"While this happens often in Indiana, this season seems particularly primed for that," Niyogi said. "So with these windows that are coming up, it can be a use-it-or-lose-it situation."
For most of the planting season so far, frequent rain kept fields too wet for farmers to work in them. Some got a break last week, when three days were suitable for field work that included spraying herbicides and applying anhydrous ammonia to fertilize soil.
Eight percent of the state's corn crop was planted as of the week ending May 5, compared with 1 percent a week earlier, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Statistics Service.
Despite the gain, Indiana farmers were 26 days behind last year's pace and 20 days behind the five-year average, the NASS said. Last year at this time, farmers had planted 82 percent of the corn crop, and the five-year average was 41 percent.
The pace in planting of corn is similar to 1996, when 9 percent of the crop had been planted by May 5. The slowest year on record in Indiana was 1961, when virtually no corn had been planted by then, according to the statistics service.
The most planting progress during the week was in the southwestern counties until rain arrived over the weekend. Fifteen percent of the crop had been planted in the south, 7 percent in the north and 6 percent in the central counties.
A few soybean fields were planted, but planting of that crop typically comes after corn and can extend well into June.