Wet spring forces farmers to consider planting alternatives
Friday, May 31, 2013 10:55 AM
A wet spring has area farmers exploring alternative planting scenarios.
Keith Hemesath of Decorah custom plants corn in a field owned by Dave Mitchell north of Decorah off Locust Road Friday afternoon. A rainy Memorial Day weekend kept farmers from continuing with spring planting. (Decorah Newspapers photo by Sarah Strandberg)
"This is the latest I've ever seen planting get pushed back," said Iowa State University Field Agronomist Brian Lang of the crop situation in Northeast Iowa.
Doug Van Sloten, general manager of the Winneshiek Coop in Decorah, said at best, county farmers have planted 50 percent of their corn.
"There are a lot of corn acres left to be planted. And as you go west, it's worse," said Van Sloten.
Julie Vulk, Farm Service Agency executive director, said one good thing about Northeast Iowa is the topography.
"Water doesn't sit here. We might have a few rough spots, but it isn't a 100-acre field that sits. Most everything is running off," said Vulk.
With regard to corn, Lang said many farmers may consider switching to seed which has an earlier relative maturity, or a shorter growing season.
"A full-season hybrid is roughly 105 days for this area. The end of last week was kind of the end of the window for planting 105-day corn," said Lang.
"It doesn't look like we'll be planting this week, so farmers are going to be switching," he said.
Lang added farmers who use corn for silage, rather than just grain, have a longer window, and can plant into June.
"Many of them may even switch their corn over to soybean acres or do preventative planting," said Lang.
Van Sloten explained preventative planting is when farmers plant a "cover crop" rather than a cash crop, in order to glean a portion of their federal crop insurance payment, and forgo planting corn or soybeans.
"This is new territory with a variety of different scenarios," said Van Sloten.
Vulk explained in order to exchange full-season seed for a seed with a shorter yield time, they should talk to their seed corn agent.
"Each farmer will have to look at their situation differently," he said Van Sloten.
Last week, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey commented on the Iowa Crops and Weather report from the previous week.
"Farmers took full advantage of the good weather last week and in the five days that were suitable for fieldwork were able to plant more than 9 million acres of the 23 million acres of our state that will be devoted to corn and soybeans again this year," Northey said.
"Planting progress remains behind the five-year average and hopefully dryer weather will return to allow farmers to finish getting crops in the ground."
By May 19, 71 percent of Iowa's corn acreage had been planted. Even though farmers have been planting at near record pace, progress still lags behind last year's 97 percent and the five-year average of 92 percent.