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Indiana farmers far behind in planting corn crop

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Indiana farmers made up a lot of ground in the past week, but experts say they are still far behind their typical planting schedule because of this spring's drenching rains and that some fields might not mature before autumn's first freeze.

A report from Purdue University shows that 49 percent of Indiana's corn acreage had been planted as of Monday — up from 29 percent the previous week.

That still leaves much work to be done in the days remaining before the June 1 optimal planting deadline.

However, rain and thunderstorms keep soaking fields statewide, preventing heavy equipment from getting into the fields.

"If we could just get a few dry days, with sun and a breeze, the farmers could be out and running like they are in the Indy 500," Greg Preston, director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's statistics service at Purdue, told The Indianapolis Star. "When the weather does clear, they'll have their equipment in road (high) gear and trying to get 'er done."

Many farmers are switching to faster-maturing corn hybrids that might beat the fall frost, Purdue agronomist Bob Nielsen said.

Crops that don't mature by that time could result in reduced yields, and Nielsen said even farmers with late-planted corn fields that have matured by then likely would bear the added cost of drying their corn to lower its moisture content.

Chris Hendricks, who hadn't planted a seed a week ago at his Johnson County farm south of Indianapolis, has been able to get into his fields a couple days and get 300 acres of corn in the ground. That's about half what he plans to plant, and he hasn't started on 600 acres of soybeans.

"I'm feeling a little more optimistic," he said. "None of the ground was really in the condition that I'd like to see. You've got to respect and take care of the ground. But we're getting there."

Hoosier farmers typically plant about 5.5 to 6 million acres of corn each year, mostly varieties used to feed farm animals, produce corn oil and other products. Slightly fewer acres are usually planted in soybeans, and the bean crop planting can go further into June.

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