Va. grain farmers enjoying near-perfect planting conditions

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RICHMOND—Virginia grain growers have enjoyed almost perfect planting conditions so far this spring.

Farmers are expected to plant 620,000 acres of soybeans, slightly higher than last year, while corn plantings are slightly lower than last year at an estimated 480,000 acres, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s annual planting intentions report.

“Virginia grain farmers have pretty much stayed the course,” explained Robert Harper, Virginia Farm Bureau Federation grain marketing manager. “It looks like there will be no wide swings in plantings between Virginia corn and soybean crops this spring. Crop rotations and a dozen other factors influence how much of a crop each grower will plant, including price and weather conditions at planting time. But many of them already purchased their seeds and crop inputs last fall, so they don’t have a lot of freedom to change course this late in the game.”

“Weather conditions have been great for corn growers in eastern Virginia this spring,” Harper noted. “We’ve had dry conditions to start, followed by timely rains the past few weeks. We’ll see if our luck holds in early May for corn growers in parts of Virginia north and west of Richmond. Soybean planting is just getting started.”

Harper explained that’s not the case in the Corn Belt, where flooding the last weekend of April and first week of May has delayed the planting season.

Spring planting season is the culmination of months of advance planning and calculations, explained Ryan Ellis, who raises grain in partnership with his father and grandfather on 4,000 acres in Essex and surrounding counties. He said they’ve been planning for months and started planting corn the first week of April.

“We take soil samples back in the fall and see what is needed, what the requirements are for different crops and what you have to put out for each crop on each field,” Ellis said. “Since then we’ve been working on putting out lime and granular fertilizer before planting.”

Other variables grain growers have to consider each year are crop rotations, pests, prices for fuel, fertilizer and seeds, and scheduling their work to get various crops planted and harvested in a timely manner.

Media: Contact Harper at 804-290-1105, Ellis at 804-443-7968 or Norm Hyde, VFBF communications, at 804-290-1146.

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