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Area farmers about a week behind planting schedule

By James Grob,

Wet field conditions in Northeast Iowa are delaying farmers from planting crops this spring.

“We’re kind of lagging a little bit,” said Terry Basol. “Mother Nature’s been keeping us from getting some progress done.”

Basol, a field agronomist and crop specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, who works out of Nashua, said area farmers are about a week behind in planting, largely due to recent rainfall — and more rain is in the forecast.

“Right now, farmers are probably starting to get a little nervous,” he said. “If we can wave a magic wand, we really want to get corn planted by the May 15-20, once we get past the the 20th of May, the yield potential can drop down substantially.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported Monday that 36% of Iowa’s expected corn crop statewide had been planted as of Sunday. That’s five days behind the five-year average.

In Northeast Iowa, about 13% of the corn is planted, Basol said. In north central Iowa, it’s at 28%. On Sunday through Tuesday of this week, Basol said he saw more farmers in the area getting the opportunity to plant. Last week, rain allowed for less than three days of fieldwork.

That work might be delayed again, however, as periodic rainfall is expected for much of the rest of this week and into the weekend, with temperatures expected to be in the 50s and low 60s.

“It’s kind of looking like we’re going to get wet,” Basol said. “If we could somehow chase off this rain, that would help the farmers a lot. That would really open up some acres.”

Chilly temperatures have also set the planting schedule back, but Basol said soil temperature is not a problem.

“We want the soil to be at 50 degrees and warming,” he said. “Right now we’re at 53 degrees in the northern part of our territory all the way up to 56-58 degrees on the southern part, in Grundy and Black Hawk counties.”

The southern part of the state has soil temperatures in the low 60s.

“It is warm enough,” Basol said. “The late snow we had dropped us back under 50 degrees, but we’re made up for that now.”

According to the USDA’s weekly report, just 15% of the corn crop was planted during the past week statewide. Iowa growers have now planted 36% of the expected crop, one day behind last year and five days behind the 5-year average. Northwest and northeast Iowa farmers have less than 20 percent of their corn planted. Just 1% of the crop has emerged, almost a week behind average.

About 8% of the expected soybean crop has been planted. That’s two days behind the five-year average.

“If we can have those in the ground by June, we’re fine,” Basol said. “So we’ve got a nice window right now for soybeans. Our biggest concern for planting is getting the corn in the ground in a timely manner.”

Basol added that when the corn is planted is not necessarily the most important factor come harvest time.

“It’s not just planting date, it’s all the other factors during the growing season that can make up for it, or at least contribute to the yield potential at the end of the season.”

Basol also added that any time people get in a hurry to get things done, there’s more of a chance of mishaps and even serious accidents, so he likes to remind farmers to be careful.

“I always tell people to stay safe this time of year, especially when we’re encroaching on a limited time frame. When we want to get everything done and that window starts narrowing, people get into more of a rush.”