LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) _ Kentucky's soggy spring has put corn planting well behind schedule for farmers like Randy Hagan, who spent more time tinkering in his shop than working in his fields.
After finally getting a welcome break from the wet weather, Hagan and other corn growers were rushing this week to make up for lost time — knowing more delays could result in lower yields in the fall.
"They're in the 'go' mode right now," Kenny Perry, agricultural extension agent in Graves County in western Kentucky, said Thursday. "They're excited to finally be getting into the fields."
Persistent rains turned spring planting into a series of starts and stops, unlike a year ago when Hagan was wrapping up corn planting by now. By Thursday, about a third of his 2,500 acres of corn was in the ground.
"If the weather will straighten up, we can get a lot done and still be all right," said Hagan, who farms with his son Jonathan in Union, Henderson and Webster counties in western Kentucky.
Statewide, 11 percent of the intended corn acreage had been planted as of last Sunday, compared with 39 percent last year and a five-year average of 47 percent, according to the latest report from the National Agricultural Statistics Service's Kentucky field office.
Above-normal rainfall has fallen so far during the planting season.
In western Kentucky, Paducah has received a little more than 16 inches of rain since March 1, 7¼ inches above normal, said Tom Priddy, a University of Kentucky extension agricultural meteorologist. Temperatures generally were below normal during that period, he said.
Wet conditions forced some farmers to plant in less-than-ideal conditions and to alter fertilizer applications. But the wet weather hasn't dampened their outlook for the season.
"We're not in bad shape yet," Graves County farmer Greg Smith said. "But what hurts is that we're having to work the ground just a little bit wet. It's been my experience that that translates into lower yields."
The push to get the crop in the ground comes amid the allure of high corn prices. That's leading to much of the frustration for farmers already shouldering sharply higher costs for fuel, fertilizer and other expenses.
"We finally have some good prices, and now we just need some yield to go with it," Hagan said.
Perry said farmers should be OK if they can get their corn planted in the next couple of weeks and the growing season turns out to be normal. But longer delays would mean the late corn would pollinate during the stifling summer heat, he said. "That will knock our yields down," he said.
Longer delays in corn planting could lead some growers to switch acreage to soybeans, which are planted later in the season, Perry said. But that could come with risks as well because of limited soybean seed supplies, an outgrowth of last year's drought, he said.
He predicted farmers will be able to get the soybean seed they need, but may face limited varieties.
"It's a pretty perilous fence that they're straddling right now," Perry said of whether they grow corn or soybeans. "There's a lot of things that could go against them that could cause severe problems."
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.