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Local farmers dig in

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SEED: Rob Shellhamer loads corn seed, coated with insecticide and fungicide, into his planter.
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PLANTER: Planters allow farmers to plant thousands of crops by injecting kernels and seed into the ground via a feeding tube as spiked wheels cover the holes up with dirt for protection.

by ANDREW MACIEJEWSKI - amaciejewski@wabashplaindealer.com

Wabash County Farmers are working overtime this week to plant nearly 200,000 acres of farmland after they patiently waited out the cold, wet, lingering winter weather.

Farmers across Indiana are rushing to plant a record breaking 6.1 million acres of soybeans, now that the soil is warm enough for germination, according to the Indiana Farm Bureau. Here in Wabash County, farmers are running tractors day and night to sow nearly 2,500 tons of soybeans and 2,000 tons of corn into the ground, Purdue Extension educator Curtis Campbell said.

“A couple of weeks ago, we were really worried because of the cold and it being wet, but we got a tremendous amount done in the past 7 to 8 days,” Campbell said. “We’re probably on the average, now.”

This year, there has seen above average rainfall and below average temperatures, according to the National Weather Service, but now, the weather has flipped, with temperatures above average this week.

Farmer Rob Shellhamer said it’s always better to be patient than to rush Mother Nature.

“I know some people push it and get by with it, but planting in earlier, colder weather, there’s always some risk associated with it,” Shellhamer said.

In order for roots to grow properly, farmers wait to plant until the earth gives them the green light. Soil temperatures must reach more than 50 degrees to activate the seed, and the topsoil must be dry, to prevent soil compaction, which hinders root growth.

Water is necessary for growth, but too much water can cause a whole host of problems. Last year, a wet spring season drowned his corn crops, and Shellhamer had to replant some.

He can remember one year when he had to plant soybeans on Father’s Day.

“It looks like we’re off to a good start, and we should be able to get it done right the first time,” Shellhamer said. “Hopefully, we won’t have to do any replanting, because it's not a very fun job.”

As long as planting isn’t delayed too long, yields are not normally affected by planting in late spring, Campbell said. The corn that was replanted in June, last year, actually produced a better yield, he said.

Shellhamer said he’s optimistic about this year’s forecast and planting season.

“You like to go by the calendar, but normally, nature determines otherwise,” Shellhamer said. “You have to go when conditions are right. It’s been going pretty nice here this past week, and planting conditions have been great: moisture is about right, ground is nice and soft. It’s working pretty well.”

He checks the weather forecast three times a day, waiting in anticipation for this break in gloomy weather.

“We spend all winter preparing to plant a crop for this year,” Shellhamer said. “When we finally get a go at it, that’s when the fun part happens. It’s an exciting time of year for a farmer.”

Most farmers can plant all of their crops within a two week period, and right now, Campbell said about 70 percent of corn crops are planted and soybeans are at 20 percent, despite the delay.