By STEVE TARTER
(Peoria) Journal Star via Associated Press
PEORIA, Ill. (AP) -- In the spring, a farmer's fancy turns to thoughts of planting. But with April arriving Thursday, those thoughts may have to wait in waterlogged central Illinois.
"We're not even close," said Mike Hoeft, who farms in Delavan. "April 15th is the date I shoot for when it comes to planting, but we've done nothing since harvest ended Dec. 22 last year."
Patrick Kirchhofer, manager of the Peoria County Farm Bureau, said most area farmers will need to prepare fields before planting can begin. "Fieldwork still needs to be done that couldn't be completed in the fall. A lot of nitrogen needs to be applied this spring. You can count on farmers making extra trips across the field this spring," he said.
"Right now, area fields are too damp. We need warm and windy days to dry things out," said Kirchhofer.
Illinois has received just over 100 inches of rain in the past two years. That's 22 inches above normal, according to the Illinois State Water Survey.
The National Weather Service calls for temperatures to rise steadily into the 70s this week. Winds also are expected to pick up by Wednesday.
By Friday, highs could be close to 80 degrees, but the weekend also brings a forecast of rain.
"The water table is so high right now. It slows the (drying) process down. Water doesn't drain off as fast," said Kirchhofer.
On the positive side, farmers are going into spring with a full charge of soil moisture, said Rob Elliott, who raises corn and soybeans in Warren County.
"Let's hope that this year is better than last. The year 2009 was the ugliest spring we ever had, and fall was just as bad," he said.
Despite wet conditions that delayed planting and then harvest throughout central Illinois and other parts of the state last year, Elliott said yields were good.
This year's wet fields may pose even more of a problem for farmers than last year, said Hoeft. "We're starting with saturated soil. There are places you can stand in the field where if you stand too long, the water comes up around your feet," he said.
The problem farmers face with wet soil in the spring is that it can be unforgiving, said Hoeft. "If you go out and screw it up and make more compaction, you screw it up for the whole year," he said.
Information from: Journal Star, http://pjstar.com
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.