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A WELCOME SIGN: This is still the first real green of spring that matters for most farmers.

Spring planting hits rocket speed

Nor’east Thinkin’: Corn and soybean planting progress has been amazing, yet not so.

Like most of you, the later May gets, the more anxious I get about seeing corn pop up through the soil. That’s the farmer still rooted in me, and the calling that drags me out of bed about sunrise. Yes, my clock is set a little later than a dairy farmer’s.

So I’ve been more anxious than usual this year for good reason. Planting season arrived in the Northeast much later than usual. It arrived so late that USDA’s National Ag Statistics Service didn’t track corn and bean progress until the second week of May in Pennsylvania, New York and New England. So much for “global warming” — the no longer used term — also for good reason.

Delaware, Maryland and parts of New Jersey were the climatic exceptions. Planters rolled early there on sandy soils. Here’s a quick look at Northeast planting progress as of May 13:

* Delaware. Planted corn acreage hit 76% by the 13th, compared to 48% a week earlier and 65% by the same week in 2017. Some 29% of the crop was already emerged due to that fast, earlier start. Soybean acreage, at 22% planted, increased from only 7% the week before, and was already ahead of last year’s schedule.

* Maryland. Corn planted acreage inched up only 2% to 41% completed after a fast start in April. That explains why 26% of the crop was already out of the ground. Soybean planting reached 10% done after being less than 5% the week before.

* New England. As of May 13, corn planted had zoomed to 15% done, compared to less than 5% the week before and 10% during the same week in 2017.

* New Jersey. NASS reported 30% of the corn crop planted last week versus only 13% the week before. That was just shy of the five-year average.

* New York. Planted corn acreage hit 20% compared to less than 5% the week before. That’s still higher than what was planted by the second week of May 2017. Soybean planting had just gotten underway with only 5% in the ground, compared to zero planted the same week of May 2017.

* Pennsylvania. At 30% planted, corn acreage lagged behind last year and the five-year average. But keep in mind that only 9% of the corn crop was in the ground the previous week. Some 17% of soybean acreage was planted by May 13, compared to less than 5% the week before. But that’s slightly ahead of the five-year average.

Also, remember that both Pennsylvania and New York each have more corn acreage and soybean acreage to plant than all other Northeast states combined.

Good weather not the only factor

Today’s technologies — no-till and higher-capacity planters — greatly accelerate planting progress, particularly on larger-scale farms. So, it’s no surprise to see those numbers jump once those farmers start socking in seed.

How does Northeast planting progress stack up with the big Corn Belt states? Except for Iowa, all of the “big five” were ahead of their five-year averages as of May 13. Illinois corn was 90% done; Indiana, 73%; Iowa, 65%; Nebraska, 72%; Ohio, 55%. In Illinois, 63% of the corn crop was already up.

Read "Your summer weather outlook depends" for a nationwide peek at what’s coming.

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