Region’s corn growers able to take planting delays in stride
Bobby Hutchinson was behind in planting his farm’s 1,300 acres of corn early last week.
Fortunately, the sun came out at the beginning of the week, ground temperatures rose and he was able to play catch-up.
“Probably with the spring we’ve had and the ground temperatures, we’re probably where we should be,” he said. “You don’t really know. This season turning out, it could be a blessing in disguise.
“If it was three weeks from now, I’d be really upset.”
Hutchinson, who farms in Cordova, Md., as with many of the Delmarva region’s farmers, was delayed in planting his crop by unseasonably cold and wet weather throughout April.
The delay will force most of the region’s farmers to get their corn in the ground after May 5, the planting date that agronomists recommend to achieve top yields.
“I know a lot of (Maryland growers) just started this week and the latter part of last week,” said Lindsay Thompson, executive director of the Maryland Grains Association.
Generally, farmers plant between mid-April and early May.
“It’s just been so cold, and we’ve had some rains,” said Matt Morris, a University of Maryland Extension agent in Frederick County. “Things got wet, and then it got warm again, and then it got cold again. It’s just a factor of temperature.”
Several farmers said they weren’t worried about the delay, however.
Melvin Baile, who grows on 600 acres in Carroll County, Md., said he’s seen the planting season slowly creep across the calendar over his 37 years in farming.
Cherry blossoms seem to bloom later. So do the eastern redbuds.
“It seems like the frosts are getting later, the springs are getting later. My dad planted corn on the 20th of April most years,” he said. “I know what the calendar says, but I can read the season.
“That’s more what I look at.”
Variable weather across the growing season could also easily benefit “late” growers, he said.
Late July rains last year benefitted later planters, he said.
Donald Maring, a Woodbine, Md., farmer, said he expected to start planting 550 acres of corn Friday, May 4 and finish within a week.
That kind of timeline isn’t new to him, he said.
The weather has pushed him late the last two years.
“There’s no guarantee you’re going to take a hit in yield. But the corn that’s already planted may out-yield the May-planted corn this year,” he said. “You never know.”
Baile said he’s more concerned about the variations in weather within the valley where he plants near the town of New Windsor.
It can create frosts as late May.
Regardless, he said he figured the May 5 date may be more applicable for farmers farther south.
“That’s a good rule of thumb for Southern Maryland or even the Eastern Shore on down. Up in our area, not so much,” he said.
May 10, he figured, was a more ideal planting deadline.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration precipitation outlook for May said the Delmarva region was equally likely to have below normal, normal or above normal rates of precipitation.
Much of the Southeast, from western Virginia to northeast Mississippi, is expected to experience below average precipitation.
The Mid-Atlantic is 50 to 60 percent more likely to experience above-average temperatures as well.
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