According to the United States Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service (USDA NASS) crop progress report farmers in Iowa planted 16% of soybeans 11 days ahead of last year and 1 day ahead of the average as of May 1. (Photo: Iowa Soybean Association)
Mixed bag for spring planting
May 4, 2023 | Kriss Nelson
Wet weather gave way to cool—yet windy—conditions to spur planting progress in Iowa the past few weeks.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service (USDA NASS) crop progress report farmers in Iowa planted 16% of soybeans 11 days ahead of last year and 1 day ahead of the average as of May 1.
Iowa farmers have planted 29% of the expected corn crop, 11 days ahead of the 2022 growing season, according to the report.
Farmers throughout the state have been dealing with consecutive days of winds trying to apply their pre-emergence herbicides to get ahead of weed control.
Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) farmer members shared some updates on their planting progress.
Palo Alto County
Kipp Fehr from Mallard in Palo Alto County expects to finish planting corn and soybeans in time for potential rain.
Like most farmers in the state, Fehr says he has been battling cool conditions and playing the waiting game for prime planting conditions.
Corn planting began April 12, and Fehr hopes warmer temperatures will promote emergence this week.
Soybeans planted a week ago are starting to sprout, he reports.
Some farmers in his area planted in early April, and some are just starting.
Parts of Palo Alto County are experiencing severe and moderate drought conditions with little relief this spring.
“We are dry,” says Fehr. “We were short on moisture last summer and had little rain yet this spring.”
Fehr has a diversified operation including 150 acres of commercial peas, which he planted April 11. They have emerged. Fehr will harvest the peas in June and plant a second crop of commercial sweet corn around July 4.
Black Hawk County
Matt Wyatt farms in southern Black Hawk County near Hudson. The sporadic planting of a few days here and there eventually allowed him to finish planting corn and soybeans.
“It’s good to be done, but we will not unhook the planter until we see everything come up,” he says.
Wyatt is eager for the warmer weather, and hopes to see the corn peak through the topsoil soon.
“What we planted two weeks ago is still not up yet; we are hoping we won’t have to replant anything,” he says. Thankfully, he says, little rain has accompanied the cooler weather during the early start to the growing season.
“Although we could use the rain, it is better on the seed not having the cold rain on it.”
Jarret Horn farms near Newton in Jasper County, where he works off the farm as an agricultural studies teacher at the Newton Community School District.
Horn says he may be slightly behind others in his neighborhood but is planning on finishing corn planting this weekend, then will switch to planting soybeans as weather permits.
The mid-April warm-up pushed farmers to plant corn before it turned cold. Although those early-planted corn acres haven’t emerged yet, Horn says he has talked to farmers that have dug seeds up, and the seeds appear to still be alive, just slow to emerge.
“It’s making some progress; it just hasn’t been as fast as we normally like,” he says.
According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, Jasper County is abnormally dry, and Horn says it shows.
“We are dry in most areas around here. The dust is rolling behind the planter,” he says. “The moisture we got from the rains soaked up quickly, and with the last few days of wind, it’s pretty well gone.”
Although he anxiously awaits some rainfall, most of his acres are no-till with cover crops combined with other conservation methods, hopefully protecting their soils from losing moisture.
For Marc Schneider of DeWitt in Clinton County, planting corn has been on his agenda this week.
“When it was warm back in April, I planted 60 acres of corn, primarily to make sure the planter worked,” he says. “But once the weather turned cold, many folks began planting beans.”
Schneider estimated he planted two-thirds of his soybean acres before switching to corn this week.
“Some haven’t started beans at all; some have done a fair bit,” he says. “This week, with the weather turning around and the outlook improving, I think most everyone is planting corn.”
Schneider says soil conditions are prime for planting; soil temperatures are another story.
“The soil is cooler than we like, just reaching into the 50s earlier this week,” he says. “But obviously, with the warmer weather trending upward, things are looking pretty good.”
Regarding moisture, Schneider said they were able to catch some late-season rains taking his area out of a drought, but with the dry spring conditions, they could use more moisture.
“It hadn’t rained a lot; there have been a few rainstorms,” he says. “Areas further north around Dubuque have gotten more. I am not concerned at the moment.”
Wind has also been a concern. “It has been extremely windy and was a challenge to terminate our cereal rye cover crop,” says Schneider. “It was tough to find a warm, sunny day that was not too windy, and we could finally do that last week.”
For Steve McGrew’s family farm, they have been planting soybeans this week despite the cool soil temperatures. With a drill and two planters running, McGrew is hopeful they will meet their spring planting date deadlines of May 10 for corn and May 20 for soybeans.
Farmers in his neighborhood near Emerson in Mills County made progress in planting corn after a few weeks of delays waiting for warmer conditions.
In the meantime, producers were switching to planting soybeans.
“Soybeans seem more forgiving than corn; we have seen that trend,” McGrew says. “Waiting until conditions were right for corn to come up in good time, and it’s been too cold, so the next alternative was beans. Some corn has been laying in the ground for three weeks that has seen little growth.”
Currently, subsoil conditions are very dry despite a two to three-inch rain a week ago.
“The tiles are still not running; the wet spots in the fields are dry,” McGrew says. “If La Nina ends this summer and conditions turn to normal, we could be in good shape. But right now, the subsoil moisture is low, and we could use some rain.”
Cool and windy conditions have also affected farmers in the state’s southeast corner.
Lance Bell, who lives in Washington County, says despite those conditions planting has been excellent.
“Things are going well. We have most of our soybeans planted and are just beginning to plant corn,” he says. “We are glad it is finally warming up. The cold weather has been frustrating.”
With the early spring warm-up in April, Bell says it has been challenging to know how aggressive to be with planting.
“It has been a mixed bag in this area,” he says. “When you have a season start with a nice, warm week in April, that put many people in the field doing various things from planting corn or planting soybeans, some doing both,” he says. “Everybody starts at a different schedule when it starts early; then it cools off.”
Although Bell is looking forward to the forecasted warmer weather trend, he still has concerns about soil conditions.
“We are dry in our area, and that’s becoming concerning,” he says. “There’s not much rain in the forecast.”