Farmers face decisions about residual crops
By KRISTIN DANLEY-GREINER
The 2018 harvest proved problematic for many farmers, with weather delays and moldy soybeans being among the issues that came up.
But in some fields scattered across the state, corn stalks and soybean plants still stood while the snow piled up around them.
Mark Licht, Iowa State University cropping systems specialist, said it isn’t unheard of for unharvested crops to be left in the fields long past harvest.
This year, Mother Nature threw many curveballs at farmers, particularly rain delays. As a result, there’s not much that can be done with those abandoned crops.
“Fields that have not been harvested yet will definitely have some degraded quality,” Licht said. “At this point, any soybeans left in the field will have greatly diminished quality and large yield penalties from pods splitting. Corn still standing in the field may still be harvested. Yield reductions can vary though. Quality may be reduced, but not as severely as soybeans still standing in the field.”
ISU field agronomist Virgil Schmitt said some farmers hope to harvest residue crops if they have suitable grain quality. Those that can’t be salvaged will have to be destroyed, he said.
“I have talked to some crop insurance adjusters who are working such claims,” he said.
ISU field agronomist Meaghan Anderson anticipates producers harvesting residue crops in her area once the snow melts, but the ground is still frozen.
Spring fieldwork to prep for planting will be key in addressing standing crops from the previous year. They will need to be “processed” or “knocked down” before planting to avoid any potential complications with the residue “interfering with the planter,” she said.
Bob Hartzler, ISU Extension weed specialist, said it’s critical to address the residue crops.
“If you’re rotating crops from corn to beans or beans to corn, then it’s less of an issue because you have some herbicide alternatives, but if you use varieties with more herbicide resistant traits in them, you must address the residue crops,” Hartzler said. “So if you had some regular RoundUp Ready soybeans and just planted corn the follow year, you’ll want to make sure that you aren’t relying primarily on RoundUp to control weeds, because it won’t control the volunteers. If you go back to the same crop, say corn after corn, then the volunteer corn could be a real issue.”
Some farmers deliberately leave crop residue on their fields after harvest to help counter effect soil erosion and reduce water runoff. Cover crops also penetrate through compacted soil layers, which are common in Iowa’s clay and thick soil compositions, which encourages more air and water movement.
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