Wednesday, April 19, 2017 - Updated: 2:11 AM
Kentucky's recent above normal temperatures and below normal rainfall has helped kick-start corn planting in the commonwealth, including the western part of the state.
"They're fast and furious on planting corn," said Chad Lee, extension agronomist with the University of Kentucky.
Western Kentucky is traditionally ahead of the rest of the state on corn, due in large part to climate, "and that's the same for this year," Lee said.
"I know the western part of the state is dryer," he said. "At this point you're still under average rainfall since Jan. 1 and that's helpful because you can get everything planted very quickly."
In Ballard County, "Corn planting is starting to explode," said Tom Miller, county agriculture extension agent. "The last rain was spotty so some areas are still too wet, and others are really getting going."
Corn planting "has kicked off here in Marshall," said Nikki Bell, county agriculture extension agent. "I would advise (drivers) to slow down, and keep a closer eye on the road and look out for farm equipment during this busy season."
Normally corn planting begins around April 1 in west Kentucky and around April 15 in the central and eastern part of the state. But the calendar is not the only thing that dictates when the planting begins, according to Lee.
"We're still early in the planting window right now," he said. "Weather and soil moisture are more important than the calendar, so hopefully folks are looking at those two things when they're making their decisions on when to plant."
The USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service annual report on prospective plantings projects the amount of U.S. corn planted in 2017 at 89.9 million acres, down 4 percent (about 4 million acres) from 2016. Kentucky's corn planting is projected to total 1.32 million acres, a 12 percent drop from 1.5 million acres in 2016.
The state also has experienced some cold weather recently that may have harmed the wheat crop, Lee said.
"We had a freeze and that did damage wheat around the state," he said. "We don't have a good assessment of what the total damage is. It's doing better than we would have thought. We're still doing stand assessments trying to decide whether we keep our fields or remove them and put in full-season crops."
Miller said he has not found any evidence of damage to the wheat crop in Ballard County.
"It looks really good so far. From here on out the wheat needs cool, dry weather to finish development," he said. "It's probably a week to 10 days ahead of normal development."
Bell said there was some wheat freeze damage in Marshall County in mid-March, when there were back-to-back night freezes.
"Decisions on whether to keep the crop or rotate to full-season soybeans needed to be made on a field-by-field basis," Bell said. "The only way to know at that time was to dissect the wheat heads and check for damage. Economically, in most situations, fields with more than 40 percent loss needed to be rotated."
The NASS prospective plantings report projects all wheat planted in the U.S. in 2017 to total 46.1 million acres, an 8 percent drop from 2016. Kentucky's 2017 wheat projection is 490,000 acres, down 4 percent from 2016's 510,000 acres.
According to Lee, stripe rust, a disease that shows up in wheat "every once in a while," has been found in several states including Tennessee, Missouri and Kansas.
"We're looking for it in Kentucky," he said. "I haven't had any report of it yet, but I'm sure it's around somewhere. We're probably looking at reduced yields in wheat this year statewide.
"We've got lower prices already, and if you've got more diseases coming in then you're looking at making a fungicide application that you don't normally make, which increases your cost."