U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Crop Progress Report issued Monday showed some significant gains in the planting of this year’s corn crop, says columnist Stu Ellis of Illinois in www.farmgateblog.com.

With the entire state of Iowa enjoying six days of suitable weather for fieldwork, farmers planted 62% of the intended corn crop during the week that ended Sunday. That places plantings at 69%, matching the five-year average for the state.

The USDA report indicated 40% of the 2011 corn crop is in the ground, based on some major efforts by farmers in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska, all of whom had nearly 60% or more of corn acreage planted. That compares to only 13% last week.

Drying conditions helped Illinois farmers reach 34% of the crop planted, while Indiana farmers have only 4% of the corn planted and Ohio farmers only 2% of the crop planted as fields retain surplus moisture.

As expected, corn emergence is well behind the 2010 pace and the five-year average. As of May 8, 6% of the Illinois corn had emerged, but only 1% each in Iowa and Indiana and only 4% in Nebraska. None has emerged yet in Minnesota nor in the Dakotas.

Instead of the 88 million acres of corn planted in 2010, the market is demanding 92 million, and the additional acres will have to come from non-traditional areas such as the Dakotas, Ellis says. So far only 3% has been planted in North Dakota and 17% in South Dakota.

Southern farmers are making fair progress planting intended soybean acres in Louisiana (67%), Mississippi (42%) and Arkansas (21%. But Midwest farmers have tallied only 15% of soybean acres planted in Nebraska, 10% in Iowa and 11% in Kansas. Only 2% have been planted in Illinois, 7% in Missouri and only 7% nationwide.

The weather forecast for the rest of May into June calls for temperatures normal to above, with rainfall near normal, which could mean significant crop planting progress, says Ohio State University meteorologist Jim Noel.

He says the summer outlook calls for one of the best years, similar to 2008, with near normal rainfall to drier than normal by late summer.