Corn Planting Picks Up Steam After Sluggish Start


After a sluggish start, corn planting is underway with a vengeance across central Nebraska. Yet, according to the USDA, the start is even slower than anyone thought.

Despite the cold and moisture that have delayed planting, area farms are still very much impacted by drought.

"Not much we can do about it," Joe Bartak said.

Hampered by cold and rain, even snow, the Bartaks finally kick up some Custer County dirt.

Zach Bartak was out Monday in his John Deere tractor.

"Planted a little last night, and 30-40 acres this morning," he said. "Everything seems to be getting ironed out."

Zach and his dad Bruce reflect on the weather. What a range they've seen, from last summer's heat wave to this spring's cold.

Bruce said, "We're a good week behind at least from where we wanted to start, and the only reason we waited was soil temp to warm up a bit."

Across the nation, only five percent of corn has been planted, creeping up from four percent last week according to the latest USDA Crop Progress Report out Monday, April 29.

Last year at this time, nearly half the nation's corn had been planted.

In Nebraska, the crop is even further behind schedule.

"When it was snowing and highs in the 40s didn't feel like you should be climbing in the tractor," Zach said.

Even with that moisture, most all of central and western Nebraska remains in extreme drought.

Joe Bartak, Bruce's brother and Zach's uncle, said, "There's been some damp weather, but we're fairly dry. We're still quite a ways behind. April – depends what happens tomorrow, end up an inch short in April."

There's enough moisture to help the new crop emerge, but there's no doubt irrigation will again be crucial, like last year when pivots were all that stood between a good harvest and no harvest.

"We wouldn't have raised anything," Bruce Bartak said. "We cut all the dry land corn for silage last year and this year we're hoping to get tall enough to get silage to cut on dry land."

From hot and dry to cold and wet, farmers weather the seasons. Planting may be late, but the Bartaks aren't worried.

"It'll get done," Bruce said.

Like many, the Bartaks rely on GPS to guide their tractors, so they don't have to worry about driving straight lines.

They also vary the rate they plant the seeds, putting less out where they don't irrigate.

The Bartaks are sharing their story with an Internet audience, as part of a web reality series. NTV will have more on Growing Season on the next episode of NTV's Grow.