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WEATHER WOES

Late planting has farmers weighing options

Published: Monday, June 10, 2013 11:32 a.m. CST • Updated: Monday, June 10, 2013 11:54 a.m. CST
Caption
(CNA photo by LARRY PETERSON)
A common sight Sunday was standing water again in area fields as more than a-half inch of rain fell over the weekend on saturated ground. Farmers are anxious to finish planting, or replant crops in flooded areas. Warmer, dry weather is forecast for much of this week, with intermittent showers possible.

The weekend rain was an added dose of aggravation for area farmers already delayed in their spring planting.

Late last week, Iowa State University Extension field agronomist Aaron Saeugling said field conditions were still soggy for many farmers trying to get in the fields after the heavy downpours of late May.

“Some soils in Union County need a week of dry weather, because it’s plenty moist now,” Saeugling said.

That didn’t happen, as showers rolled in again Saturday night. Through Sunday evening, Creston received .57 of an inch of weekend rainfall.

Just more aggravation for farmers in what has been a record-setting wet spring (see related story).

Soybean planting has been delayed by nearly 50 percent and some producers still haven’t quite finished corn planting. For that crop, time is of the essence.

Bill Northey, Iowa’s secretary of agriculture, says some farmers face tough decisions because of the wet weather.

Decision time

Northey said June 10 (today) is a “sort of cut-off date” for planting corn in Iowa, while farmers can plant soybeans as late as the first week of July.

But, a shortened growing season means a shorter crop. Field specialists are suggesting narrower rows and increased population in soybean planting to maximize canopy and growth.

According to Iowa State University Extension and Outreach research, soybean yields decline by an average of .25 to .9 bushels per day when seed isn’t in the ground by May 15. There is a 50 percent chance of frost in this area by Oct. 8-10.

According to Iowa Farm Bureau, planting progress is slower than it was in the dramatic flood year of 1993.

When last week began, Iowa farmers had planted 88 percent of the corn crop, up just 3 percentage points in a week, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Usually, 99 percent would be in the ground.

Forty-four percent of the soybean crop was planted on June 2, down from the usual 91 percent. Just 23 percent had emerged, which is the lowest since 1996.

“We’ve had five full days and three half days of field work since May 1,” said Matt Brown, who farms in eastern Union County.

Still, Brown said he has about 85 percent of his corn planted and 90 percent of his planned soybean acreage done.

“I’m counting myself pretty lucky,” Brown said. “We moved pretty quick in those three or four days of good weather. I stayed on the planter for 39 consecutive hours.”

Insurance mark

The crop insurance late planting period for corn began on June 1.

“Corn can still be planted after this date, but the insurance guarantee on those acres is reduced by 1 percent per day until the acres are planted,” said Kelvin Leibold, ISU Extension farm management specialist.

Corn acres planted after June 25 will receive insurance coverage equal to 60 percent of their original guarantee. The late planting period for soybeans is June 16 through July 10.

Acres that have been planted, but need to be replanted, may qualify for a special replanting insurance payment. These payments are based on the value of eight bushels of corn or three bushels of soybeans per acre times their respective projected prices, or about $45 per acre for corn and $38 per acre for soybeans.

“There are some isolated cases of replanting going on in Union County, but not huge,” said Saeugling. “Actually, Adams and Taylor counties seemed to bear the brunt of the real large rainfall, from what I have observed.

“In all honesty, it’s too late for corn now,” Saeugling added. “Most are abandoning corn (planting) at this point, and I would encourage producers to look at other crops, such as soybeans, unless you have no other options because of feed needs or your herbicide and fertilizer choices.”

Faster hybrids

Saeugling also suggested moving to earlier maturity variety for corn that is planted this late. That could reduce yield by anywhere from 25 to 50 percent, but full-season corn is running into a timeline where there would be concerns of frost damage at the end of the season.

Tracy Camron, agronomist for Gavilon Grain of Creston, said emergence is another problem.

“Some crops have been in the ground for two weeks and not showing up very good yet,” Cameron said. “We had a lot of cool, cloudy weather. We’re in the process of examining for remedial action, such as replanting those spots.”

Some of the heavy downpours of late May occurred on already moist soil. Soil particles “crusted,” Saeugling said, and the corn didn’t have the ability to push through that crust.

“The cool temperatures compounded that,” Saeugling said.

Brown said he had some emergence problems in no-till fields where soybeans had been planted.

“Anything we planed between May 20 and May 24, in the no-till, it has not come out of the ground at all,” Brown said. “It got cold and wet and the plants just shriveled up and died.”

Farmers also need extended dry weather for their hay crop, a situation worsened by the weekend rain.

Hopeful forecast

Still, today’s varieties are resilient, shown by the substantial yields by many farmers last year during drought conditions. Crops could recover and still produce well if warmth and rain come at the right times throughout the summer.

Warmer temperatures, with highs in the 80s, are forecast this week. But, farmers are casting a wary eye at forecasts calling for possible showers to occur more than once in the seven-day forecast.

“At the end of this year you’ll probably see what amounts to an average over a two-year period,” Saeugling said. “But that doesn’t help the guys trying to get in the field right now.”

Brown is crossing his fingers for another window of field-work weather this week.

“It looks like there’s a chance for Tuesday through Friday to be dry,” Brown said. “We’re hoping we can finish up by the end of the week. Last year was an unlimited window. This year, it’s been challenging.”

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