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Spring weather continues to bring planting woes

By Staff | May 18, 2018

This flooded field is located near Fostoria in northern Clay County. Planting is far behind in that area and surrounding areas, with some farmers having only a handful of acres planted and others not having anything planted at all at this time.



The 2018 planting season varies greatly across the state, with some producers completing their corn planting while others haven’t even begun to turn a wheel.

Paul Kassel, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach field agronomist – who serves counties in northwest Iowa including Buena Vista, Clay, Sac, Pocahontas and Dickinson across the state over to Hancock and Winnebago counties – said many producers are ready to either get back to planting or get started, but with recent wet conditions and more forecasted, the outlook doesn’t look very good.

“It just gets progressively worse as you travel north of Highway 10, to north of Highway 3 and to north of Highway 18 and a quick text message survey this morning, north of Highway 9 is where it really gets worse,” said Kassel. “They haven’t done much field work.”

As of Monday, Kassel said areas north of Iowa Highway 9 are only 5 to 10 percent planted, while areas from Highway 9 to U.S. Highway 18 were estimated to be 35 percent planted, and Highway 18 to Iowa Highway 3 are about 50 to 60 percent completed with corn planting.

It can vary, even in one county.

“In Clay County, there’s quite a difference from north to south,” Kassel said. “The southern part of Clay County, they are probably half done with corn and the north part not near as much.”

Angie Rieck-Hinz, ISU Extension field agronomist for north central Iowa, said areas from U.S. Highway 30 to U.S. Highway 20 have progressed nicely, where an estimated 90 percent of the corn is in and 25 percent of the beans.

Much like in Kassel’s side of the state, the numbers drop dramatically as you head north.

Producers in those areas from Highway 20 north to Highway 3 are close to having 75 percent of their corn planted and 15 percent of their beans. Further to the north, those estimated planted acres drop to an estimated 20 percent of the corn planted, but closer to the Minnesota border with only about 5 percent of the corn in the ground, Rieck-Hinz said producers still need to tend to their fertilizer and herbicide applications.

“At this point and time, if you have to make a decision between planting corn and getting your anhydrous on, once soil conditions are applicable, I would try to get some nitrogen on before the corn is planted,” said Rieck-Hinz. “I wouldn’t go in and just plant corn right now and not have any nitrogen down. There is still some time, from now on until the next week or so, if the opportunity presents itself, put nitrogen on and then plant corn.”

However, if conditions continue to prevent producers getting into the field, then their strategy may need to change.

It is time to start changing maturities?

Kassel said by early next week, it might be time for producers in his area to switch from later maturity hybrids down to a 100 day hybrid. Most producers in his area already plant those 99 to 103 day hybrids, so that wouldn’t mean much, if any changing at all.

However, for those producers, he said that to plant later hybrids, they need to consider the cost involved with drying down the corn in the fall. Costs for dry down could reach $7 per acre, per point, or even higher.

“People need to decide how sensitive they are with those costs,” said Kassel. “There can be a higher yield potential that comes with those later hybrids, but there is that dry down cost factor to consider.”

Rieck-Hinz agreed there is time yet before needing to switch hybrids, but advised to be prepared.

“We still have time to make those decisions, but be in communication with your seed dealer about that possibility,” she said.

Making the decision to switch to an earlier hybrid is one thing, but when to switch from not planting and going to beans is another.

“That gets really tough because of all of the things involved, but it’s probably June 5 before we get to that,” he said.

Once corn is in, producers will most likely jump right into beans. Although it is later in the growing season for soybeans, the agronomists said there is still plenty of time to get beans in.

“There’s no doubt soybeans respond to early planting, but they are also very resilient,” Kassel said. “We can plant some good, mid-group two variety up until, easily June 20 with no big penalty.”


At this point, getting the crops in remains the main concern, but there is a need to be aware of any potential black cutworm action that could occur in late planted corn.

There has been some larger moth catches in southern Minnesota, which both agronomist said won’t necessarily reflect on the number of potential black cutworm numbers, but more when to be prepared for them.

“Later planted corn might be a little bit more at risk for cutworm damage,” said Rieck-Hinz. “We’ve had some black cutworm flights in Iowa. Minnesota put out their advisory last week. Iowa State will put their cutting advisory out later this week, but just be aware of when we get that crop in the ground, we’re going to have to think about some of those early season insects on some of those later planted crops. So for sure, get out there and scout.”

Terminating cover crops

To add more insult to injury, the later the spring gets, the more issues could come with terminating cover crops.

Rieck-Hinz said the wet conditions have also prevented producers to get to the field and get their cover crops killed.

If that is the case, and a producer had plans to plant conventional hybrids, they may want to ensure those hybrids match up to the planned herbicide being used for the burn down.

It is recommended, Rieck-Hinz said, to have a 14 day window between cover crop termination and planting corn, but time may not allow for that this year.

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