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‘It has been a rollercoaster of a spring’

By Kriss Nelson - Farm News editor | May 11, 2021



The 2021 spring planting season is close to coming to an end with little snafu.

“Overall, I am extremely happy with how planting progress occurred this spring,” said Angie Rieck-Hinz, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach field agronomist.

According to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service’s weekly Iowa crop progress and condition’s report, which was released on Monday, 86% of the expected corn crop has been planted, which is 10 days ahead of the five-year average. North central and central Iowa farmers have less than 10% of their expected corn crop remaining to be planted.

Corn emergence improved 20 percentage points over last week to 22% complete.

Just over two-thirds of the soybean crop has been planted, which is 15 days ahead of the five-year average and 6% of that soybean crop has emerged.

Emergence issues

There has been some concern, Rieck-Hinz said with some of the corn emergence, however.

“People are concerned some of the corn emergence is somewhat uneven,” she said.

Rieck-Hinz said she has seen fields where the corn was almost to the V1 stage in some places and then seed that had not absorbed any water and was just lying in the ground.

“There is always some discussion on whether those plants will emerge later and we will see how that impacts yield,” she said. “We often talk about if they are a leaf stage or more behind, do they become a weed in that field? Or do they contribute at some point to yield? There is a lot of debate on that and I think we are going to have to see how this plays out.”


The forecast called for some areas of frost Monday evening into Tuesday morning. What kind of affects could that have on emerged crops?

Rieck-Hinz said generally speaking, corn should be ok because the growing point is still below the ground surface and any frost will most likely just affect those first few leaves.

“I anticipate we might have some ragged looking corn if we get this frost,” she said. “But it shouldn’t do a lot of severe damage.”

Depending on how cold it gets and for how long, the damage to the soybean plant could be variable.

“Most of the times we have frost on emerged soybeans, really early soybeans, is they can have all kinds of injury,” Rieck-Hinz said.

If the cotyledon leaves are frosted off, the plant can still recover from axillary buds or there could be complete death.

Rieck-Hinz advises not scouting the next morning after a frost, however.

“You need to wait five to seven days after a frost event to go out and assess stands to see if we need to think about replanting some beans. They need time after that frost to see how they might recover,” she said.


Rieck-Hinz said she anticipates with in the next week or two Iowa State University may put out an army worm and black cutworm advisory and now is the time to be scouting corn fields. Especially those with cover crops on them.

“We need to be scouting some of the fields that had cover crops on them,” she said. “Even if you have cover crop fields you are planting to beans, you are going to want to check neighboring corn fields once that cereal rye is terminated. If there are cutworms or army worms, they will migrate to the neighboring fields because they are hungry.”

Seedling diseases

In addition to pests, now is the time to be on the lookout for any seedling diseases.

“The reason we tell people to scout this time of year is we want them to know what their intended planting rate was and what their stand is, so we can come back later in the year and see if that might have impacted their yield because they didn’t have enough of a stand out there, the emergence was uneven and that is what led to some yield issues,” Rieck-Hinz said.

Looking ahead

Will the rains be coming?

“Because we have been relatively dry since last fall throughout north central Iowa, because our topsoil and some of our subsoil is fairly dry, we are going to need to catch all of the rains to get us through this season to keep these crops growing,” said Rieck-Hinz.

Although the rain that fell last weekend should help get the crop off to a good start and hopefully establish a solid root system, it won’t be enough.

“If we continue to miss some of these rains and be dry, we will probably have some developmental issues,” she said. “We will have to wait and see what happens. We are definitely going to need some extra rain this year to get through the crop season.”

The 30 day outlook, Rieck-Hinz said shows we are at about a 25% chance of having below normal rainfall for parts of Webster, Hamilton, Hardin, and southern Franklin Counties.

The 60 day outlook is showing a 50% chance of equal precipitation and the 90 day outlook shows anywhere from a 50- to 75% chance of normal precipitation.

“Those outlooks would lead you to believe, going forward in time, through the next 90 days, we are going to have below average rainfall,” she said.

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