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It’s the conditions, not the calendar, that is important

By Staff | Apr 13, 2018

Snow blankets a field in Webster County on Monday. Spring field work has been delayed due to unseasonably cold and snowy conditions. Soil temperatures will still in the lower 30s earlier this week and experts suggest 50 degree soil temperatures and rising is ideal for planting.



The calendar may show it is the middle of April, but Mother Nature appears to be late to the spring planting party.

Unseasonably cold and snowy conditions this spring is delaying the start to the 2018 growing season, but experts agree, once the weather begins to turn around, producers will be going full force.

“The weather this spring has been slowing preplant field operations,” said Mark Licht, assistant professor and Iowa State University Extension cropping systems specialist. “The warm weather this week is welcome to allow some field activities. Spring field work and planting will ramp up pretty quickly with impending breaks in the weather.”

Licht said once the weather improves, a lot of acres will get planted and done so at a rapid race. He also noted it’s too early for producers to be changing any of their spring field work plans.

“I have estimated planting progress of 1 to 1.5 million acres a day,” he said. “Once field conditions and the weather improve, a lot of acres will get planted very quickly. It’s still too early to predict delayed planting and recommend changes because of delays.”

Licht said the most important thing for producers to do at this point is to ensure field conditions are ready for planting.

“Jumping the gun on planting can lead to sidewall compaction and poor seed placement and could very well result in poor root and early season growth that in poor or marginal growing conditions could have season-long impacts,” he said.

Although the field appears to be fit for planting, Licht recommends waiting until soil temperatures get to 50 degrees and rising.

“That is really important in an effort to minimize stress,” he said.

Harcourt-area farmer Dale Peterson, who owns Premium Ag Solutions, said soil temperatures as of Monday morning were 33 degrees.

“It’s hard to get too fired up, but three or four nice days can change things very quickly,” said Peterson.

As a seed dealer, Peterson estimates his product is 40 percent delivered at this time.

“That’s a little behind than most other years,” he said. “Normally we like to get the seed out to the guys that want it by April 10. Some of those guys have taken their seed, others are just not in a big hurry. When you look at the calendar, you get concerned. When you drive down the road and see snow out in the fields and ditches, that eases your concerns.”

In talks with customers and other local producers, Peterson said some have a fear we may not see any planting until the first of May.

“I think the weather gets us down and it’s amazing the demeanor of people when we get a couple of nice, sunny days,” he said. “People get in a better mood and things can turn around in such a quick timeframe that I am not too worried about it. We’ve always got our crops in, it always gets done. There’s no reason to think that won’t happen this year also. We are all in the same boat.”

Once the weather decides to start cooperating, Peterson said thanks to a lot of work completed last fall, most producers will be able to focus on their pre-plant and spring planting duties.

“We had a fairly open and late fall. That gave us a lot of opportunities to get our work done,” he said. “There are some people that choose to do spring work instead of fall work, and there has been a little bit of that done, but not very much.”

Personally speaking, Peterson said he prefers to plant corn after April 20. He feels a later planting date allows for warmer and more ideal planting conditions.

“Generally, earlier planting usually yields better, but it also adds more potential for problems,” he said. “There’s times you plant it on the 15th of April and it sits in cold, wet dirt for a few weeks.”

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