DANVILLE — After a year when uncertainty was the order of the moment, planting in Vermilion County could soon get back to some normalcy.

According to Brian Neville, an Area Vice President at Farmers National in Danville, if things hold up, there could be a quicker start to the planting season.

“The last couple of springs, we had some delayed planting because of the wet conditions,” Neville said. “Right now, actually we are pretty dry and it could lead to an early spring, but that could change pretty quickly. I think it will be a spring where most operators will go when the conditions are right, so if the weather gives us an opportunity for 3-4 days to plant, then that is what will happen.”

Neville — who supervises 12 managers in the Eastern area for Farmers National — says most planting takes place in mid-April, which means there is plenty of time for growth or a setback.

“Our goal is to be done with corn by the end of April. We could be all right or all wrong,” Neville said. “We can put so many acres in a day and if it turns out wet and cold and cause some germination problems and it can cause a replant.

“If we get a weather front that comes in for several days, it would be a problem. We have seen rains that go for 3-4 days and we would get dry weather and when we get conditions right, another system comes in and that pushes us back and you could be out for up to 20 days.”

Farmers can still get around this by purchasing drainage tile for their plants, but the high reward of the tile comes with a high price.

“We have taken steps over the last 15-20 years, a lot of farmers and farm managers have used drainage tile to gain a day of two to get the water away from the field. But it comes at a cost,” Neville said. “When you look at a system tile, which is for every 50 feet apart, you are looking at about a $1,000 per acre investment. If I can get things done two-three days earlier, especially with corn, there can be a better yield and that yield can make up for getting the drainage tile.”

Tile is just one of many innovations Neville says has been a part of farming for years, which also includes planters that can plant many more rows at a time.

“Most of our planters can go 16 to 24 rows in width and when I started 40 years ago, a 6-12 row planter was big and our technology and machinery is so much better in that we can plant in a faster speed than way back then,” Neville said. “You have auto-steer now, where 40 years ago, you would put in a 12-16 hour day and you were physically worn out running the tractor and making sure it was handling the seed. Today, we are dealing with bulk seeds. I say it may not be a physically challenging as before, but it is mentally challenging. When you made a mistake with a four-row planter, you have a skip in the field. When you make a mistake with a 24-row planter, you have a big gap that can be a major issue.”

This year’s season is almost like most years, but without the fear that the pandemic put on the whole business last year at this time.

“I think a lot of operators are concerned because maybe a farm operator and two or three guys and there was a concern if someone catches COVID, who is going to plant the crop?,” Neville said. “I don’t think as many guys were worried about that compared to a year ago.”

With most farmers in the area, Neville said they will stick to what has been working for a better season.

“Traditionally, farmers do a corn and soybean rotation, where they will switch corn to soybeans. Most guys will stick with that,” Neville said. “If you ran the numbers right now, you can make a little more profit with soybeans, but you don’t know how the price will stay, so you try to rotate so you can spread your risks.”

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