The nation’s corn growers pulled out the stops in the last week, managing to nearly complete planting the 2009 crop despite challenging weather conditions in several key corn-producing states, according to the USDA June 1 crop report.

USDA numbers show growers have now planted 93% of the corn crop, up from 82% a week ago, and now in a dead heat with the 2008 planting pace. This week’s report also provides the first look this season at crop condition. Overall, 70% of the corn crop is rated in good or excellent condition, compared to 63% last year. Nearly a third of the crop is rated only fair because of slow emergence.

“The progress is a tribute to the technology and innovation that characterize the modern corn production industry. It also is a testament to the hard work of corn growers,” says National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) President Bob Dickey. “Corn growers produce five times more corn today on 20% fewer acres that they did in the 1930s, and they are doing with less fertilizer, fuel and water.”

This year, many are also doing it with less sleep as states like Colorado, Michigan, North Dakota, South Dakota, Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio planted 20% or more of their corn crop in a single week.

“Planting in the southern half of Minnesota was ideal, and now needs rain, but in the north some growers are shifting to soybeans because of the late date,” says Jerry Larson, of Elbow Lake, in west-central Minnesota. “Flooding in the Red River Valley earlier this spring has people looking at prevented planting options. Technology and efficiency can help you plant the crop quickly but we still need warmer weather. GDUs (growing degree units) are near normal, but they are of critical importance in June and July.”

“Most of the corn crop that is going to be planted is in the ground,” says LaSalle, IL, grower Ken Beck. “It’s hard to gauge how many corn acres have switched to soybeans but that is happening because people couldn’t get the fertilizer down. Emergence has not been pretty on earlier corn, and soil compaction is an issue because it has been so wet.”