As the saying goes, “Be careful what you wish for.” Vermilion County farmers are feeling the effects of that old adage first-hand this year.
Few, if any, local growers have made it into the fields so far this planting season — the result of excess rains that have left some fields looking more like ponds.
The situation is a drastic change from last year where farmers were in the field early as a result of dry conditions — dry conditions that eventually turned into a drought year for growers.
Steve Fourez, a farmer in the rural Fairmount area, said his area has seen as much as 6 inches of rain since the beginning of April.
“We didn’t have 6 inches from planting time all the way through harvest last year,” he said.
The precipitation measurements bear that out. Last week alone, rainfall totals for the week ranged from 5.3 inches in Westville to 3.5 inches in Oakwood. The average rainfall for the month of April, historically, is just more than 4 inches.
However, totals in Danville as of Wednesday stood at 6.7 inches for the month. For the year, Aqua Illinois is reporting 15.4 inches.
The rainfall is a drastic difference from last year’s rain — of which there was very little. Aqua Illinois measurements showed the Danville area had received only 12.6 inches of rain by July 3 last year. Rainfall totals didn’t clear the 15.4 inch mark until mid-August.
Information from the Illinois Department of Agriculture’s weekly report show just 1 percent of corn had been planted in the state of Illinois as of Monday.
That’s compared to 56 percent last year and a five-year average of 24 percent.
As a positive, none of the top soil and only 1 percent of sub soil was listed as short on moisture as of Monday. Almost 60 percent of the subsoil and 56 percent of the top soil was found to be short or very short on moisture a year ago.
Tom Fricke, information officer with the Vermilion County Farm Bureau, said, so far, the excess rains this year shouldn’t have an effect on yields in October.
“Generally, as long as you can get corn in by mid May, you don’t see much yield effect on it,” he said. “We’ve got two to three weeks of optimal plant time — provided we can get into the fields.”
He noted farmers are “chomping at the bit” to start planting. But fields are going to need some help from Mother Nature first.
“As long as we can get a stretch where it gets warmer and get some drying going on,” he said. “A little breeze will help dry fields out.”
Fourez — who decided against getting in the fields early because of the colder temperatures — estimated it could be May 1 now before farmers can get into the fields.
Forecasts from the National Weather Service show no rain predicted for the area with highs in the 60s and 70s through next Tuesday. A chance of showers and thunderstorms is predicted for Wednesday.
The excess moisture that local growers have dealt with through the early part of plant season can offer more than just bouts with impatience for farmers, however.
“Wet springs hurt worse sometimes than if we’re trying to plant in a dry spring,” Fourez said.
He said this year’s soil could cause corn plants to not send roots into the ground as deep as it should because of the plentiful moisture near the surface.
The plants, if not chasing water, will be a little more fragile during the year and “a little more susceptible if we get that hot dry snap come on and the soil dries out faster than the plant can grow roots,” Fourez said. “Then we’ve got a problem.”