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Field prep, planting underway

Article cover photo
ISA District 4 Director Jeff Frank said farmers have been taking advantage of warmer, drier weather. He got started planting this week. (Photo: Joseph L. Murphy/Iowa Soybean Association)

By Bethany Baratta, ISA senior writer

Warmer, drier weather has allowed farmers to get started with their pre-planting tillage and anhydrous application. And while much of the state has yet to plant a single seed, a favorable forecast will propel planting progress within the next week.

“I haven’t heard of anyone who’s planted,” said Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) District 2 Director April Hemmes, of Hampton.

“We had 1.5 inches of rain last week and there’s more in the forecast.”

She’s converting an area to pollinator habitat and hoped to get it seeded soon.

Hemmes was able to get liquid nitrogen applied to her fields, but the ground wasn’t fit for planting crops yet. She said she learned her lesson last year: earlier isn’t better.

“I had fields with yellow streaks and uneven stands last year,” she said. “A lot of agronomists looked at it and had varying thoughts, but the one common thought was that the variability was due to compaction.”

Hemmes said she’ll be waiting for the ground to be a little more suitable for planting this year to avoid that this year.

“I’m trying to make sure the planting conditions are a bit more ideal before I get started,” she said, noting that forecasted rain will determine this year’s planting timeline.

“It all depends on if we get that rain and how much. If we don’t get much, we could easily be going by next week, if not sooner.”

ISA District 6 Director Robb Ewoldt was strip-tilling fertilizer on his corn acres earlier this week near Blue Grass. He has spent the past few weeks repairing waterways.

Anhydrous application started in the area one week ago; at least one farmer in the area had started planting, he said.

About 1.5 inches of rain last week in eastern Iowa delayed the majority of farmers in the area, he said.

“I think everybody has equipment ready, we’re all just waiting for the ground to dry out,” Ewoldt said.

Some areas still had some frost last week, he noted.

Warmer, dryer conditions earlier this week allowed farmers back in their fields to complete some pre-planting tillage work and anhydrous applications in ISA District 8 Director Randy Miller’s area in Lacona.

“A week ago, we had to pick and choose where we could work the ground, now it’s getting dried out and we can go everywhere,” said Miller.

He was waiting for drier, warmer days to seed hay ground and pastures.

“We’re waiting to plant any corn until we see what the weather does. Next time it dries up, we’ll probably start planting,” he said.

ISA District 4 Director Jeff Frank finished field preparations while waiting for soil temperatures to reach 50 degrees. above 50 degrees and got a start on planting.

“This past week there’s been a lot of farmers out applying anhydrous and getting tillage done,” said Frank, who farms near Auburn in Sac County.

The area received less rain than was expected, so Frank made his way into the fields on Thursday to get started planting.

The first passes through the fields have farmers eager to get their seeds in the ground, but Angie Rieck-Hinz, Iowa State University (ISU) field agronomist in north central Iowa, cautions farmers from getting started too soon.

“Planting is the most critical step we do every year,” she said. “So, we want to make sure the soil is in really good condition—not too wet that we get side wall compaction and then rooting issues.”

She said soil temperatures should be at least 50 degrees, so seeds remain viable.

“The seed has to take on water to expand and germinate, so if they get a cold rain after planting, that disturbs germination and creates emergence issues,” Rieck-Hinz said.

When it’s fit to get started planting, farmers should consider seeding rates and depth, she said.

“You want to plant into the best conditions as possible. Get off the tractor often and check soil conditions and make sure the planter is adjusted properly, checking seeding rates and seed placement depth,” Rieck-Hinz said.

Contact Bethany Baratta at

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