HANCOCK COUNTY — County farmer Monty Zapf knows that on his 2,500 acres, some cropland will grow more successfully than others.

This year, it’s been damp conditions and low temperatures that have forced him to replant his corn twice in several spots.

He’s among local farmers nervously eyeing the forecast, worried about the year’s corn and soybean yields after May came in as the eighth-wettest on record for the area.

Farmers have battled bouts of heavy rainfall through the planting season, with some like Zapf having to replant corn crops several times when weather conditions kept seeds from sprouting. Others are still waiting for their fields to dry out enough to plant their first corn crops, with the recommended deadline for planting fast approaching, experts say.

The key, Zapf said, is patience — a trait all farmers come to master.

“There’s always something when you’re farming,” he said. “There’s always something to contend with, whether it’s weather, bugs, wind or weeds.”

Greenfield received at least 9.56 inches of rain in May, nearly double the 4.89 average, officials at the National Weather Service in Indianapolis reported.

That’s the wettest May in central Indiana since 2004, said National Weather Service hydrologist Albert Shipe.

Area farmers report having about 80 percent of their corn crops planted so far, which is 10 percent below the average for this time of year, said Greg Matli, statistician with the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.

While a few weeks without rain would be ideal for Hancock County agribusinesses wanting to get their corn and beans planted, farmers are careful what they wish for, said Roy Ballard, agriculture and natural resources educator with the Hancock County Purdue Extension.

“Nobody wants a drought; we just want a few days without rain to help with good soil-working conditions,” Ballard said. “If we can get that, I know they’ll be out there and have the job done as quickly as they have the opportunity.”

The recommended cutoff for planting corn crops is early June, Ballard said, explaining that for optimum yield of the produce, both corn and beans should have as long to grow as possible.

Jeff Addison, who grows corn and soybeans on about 2,000 acres in the Mohawk area, remains positive about his crop’s yields despite delays in planting.

Addison typically aims to begin planting corn by April 20 but was unable to start planting the crop until April 28, he said. He began recording how much rain he’d received on the farmland on that date — since then, he said he believes the rainfall has been near 13 inches.

It’s taken a toll: he’s had to replant about 200 acres of corn, with an additional 75 acres about to be seeded for the third time.

But he’s trusting his elders, he said.

“I feel optimistic that we can still get a good crop,” he said. “I have lots of older farmer friends, and they tell me they haven’t failed to get a crop in the field yet. They tell me, you know, patience is a virtue.”

By the numbers

This has been the eighth-wettest May on record in central Indiana, according to the National Weather Service in Indianapolis. These are the years that received the most spring rainfall.

Year     Inches of rainfall

1. 1943: 10.1 inches

2. 1968: 9.25 inches

3. 1981: 9.23 inches

4. 1957: 9.15 inches

5. 1996: 8.89 inches

6. 1892: 8.83 inches

7. 2004: 8.55 inches

8. 2017: 8.51 inches

9. 1929: 8.46 inches

10. 1980: 8.22 inches

Source: National Weather Service

Crop planting troubles

Periods of heavy rainfall have kept farmers out of their fields throughout the month of May in central Indiana, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.

The National Agricultural Statistics Service reported by May 30, 83 percent of corn was planted in central Indiana’s fields — about the same as last year but down from the 90 percent average.

Some 57 percent of soybean fields have been planted, down from 58 percent last year and the 71 percent average.

Source: National Agricultural Statistics Service

Author photo
Rorye Hatcher is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at ​317-477-3211 or rhatcher@greenfieldreporter.com.