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ISU: Planting delay should not concern growers

By Staff | May 22, 2009

After going until midnight Monday working up his ground, Mike Schwichtenberg was back to work at 6 a.m., Tuesday on his farm south of Ventura in Cerro Gordo County. Schwichtenberg was about halfway in soybean planting and expected to be done by Friday. He has been working around wet spots that should be dry by week's end.

Until warmer, dryer weather settled in during the past week, Iowa soybean growers were wondering if 2009 was lining up with 2008 in terms of getting seed into the ground late.

Although some growers were wondering outloud if this spring’s rain had already delayed planting enough to hurt yield potential, it’s not yet time to worry, said Palle Pedersen, Iowa State University Extension soybean agronomist.

“In Iowa, we’re not doing too badly,” Pedersen said. “The rain has been sporadic and farmers have been able to do some work. Currently, we have 90 percent of the corn planted and roughly half of the soybeans.”

Although its proven that the earlier seeds can get into the soil, the better chances plants will reach full yield potential, Pedersen emphasizes that it’s even more important for soil conditions to be right at planting.

Planting strictly by the calendar – May 10 for corn and May 15 for soybeans in north Iowa – Pedersen contends that it doesn’t pay to plant when the soil conditions are not suitable.

“If you plant in a wet seedbed, it will often lead to sidewall compaction. That keeps a good root system from developing and that will affect nutrient and water uptake. A fully developed root system is critical, particularly if we get into a hot and dry summer,” Pedersen says.

He uses last year as an example. “Last year many farmers were forced to plant soybeans into non-optimal seedbed conditions, and we saw a lot of sidewall compaction because of that. But fortunately, because there was enough rain throughout the summer and it was cool enough, we still got a crop.

“Seedbed conditions are critical,” Pedersen said.

With this week’s warm and rainless weather, producers were out in force getting their seeds into the ground.

Even though Iowa has exceeded the optimum planting date for soybeans, Pedersen said, “don’t think we in Iowa should worry. In other states, including Illinois and Indiana, where they are way behind in corn planting – 20 percent and 24 percent, respectively – it’s a whole other story.”

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