Rain has slowed producers down this spring, with many struggling to start planting in April.
Areas in eastern and central Iowa, along with significant portions of Illinois and Missouri, are seeing above-normal precipitation, keeping planters out of the field. Combined with a cooler-than-normal season so far, activity was hard to find to close out April.
“With the rain we’ve gotten and the cooler temperatures, there aren’t a lot of seeds in the ground yet,” said Katherine Rod, a Channel agronomist based in eastern Iowa.
Despite the delays, Rod said there is still plenty of time left before farmers need to hurry into the field.
“For most of Iowa, we can still achieve optimum yield with our planting dates still. I would say until mid-May,” she said. “We still have a good portion of that window available. There’s no need to get into a super big rush of getting everything in.”
However, planting into wet conditions requires more thought. Running tractors and planters through wet soils can lead to long-lasting damage and drive down yield potential.
With it only being early May, there is plenty of time to stay patient, Rod said.
“I wouldn’t get too worried until the end of May,” she said. “I wouldn’t worry until that last week of May or first week of June. Once we can get into the field, we can cover a lot of acres quickly.
“I know we can often get into a rush, but we need to make sure we are doing the best agronomic practices we can, and we should start when conditions are fit.”
Speed is a benefit modern farmers have when it comes to weather delays. Joel DeJong, an Iowa State University Extension field agronomist in northwest Iowa, wrote in a blog post that if all planting occurs at its fastest pace, corn and soybean acres in Iowa could be planted in 15 days.
While this is the first year since 2018 that corn had not been planted by the third week of April, yield potential is still high, he said.
“Greater than 95% yield potential can still be achieved when corn plating occurs before mid-May,” he said. “Soybean yield potential remains above 95% yield potential when planting occurs before May 20.”
Having the added soil moisture this spring is a welcome sight for many, despite the delays, as drought has been prevalent throughout northern and western Iowa for the past couple of seasons. Recharging those moisture levels will pay dividends once the crop is planted.
“The latest drought report shows that most of Iowa has come out or decreased their drought rating,” Rod said. “We have more water in the soil profile, both in subsoil and on top.”
This is also a good opportunity to see how well any new tiling and drainage systems work and identify any deficiencies, Rod said.
Not all the moisture is a benefit, however, as it may affect the early-season weeds and diseases. Rod said these conditions are prime for seedling diseases once the crop is planted. Cool and wet weather make an ideal situation for fungi and disease, so farmers need to scout hard for those, she said.
“Seed treatments have come a long way across the industry, and most of the ones out on the market have good protection,” she said. “But the longer we expose the seed to cool, wet conditions or warm and wet conditions, it will put it to the test.”