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Farmers scramble to get corn planted, consider alternatives

Farmers scramble to get corn planted, consider alternatives
Many area farmers are still scrambling to get their corn planted, but continued rain and perpetual wet field conditions are forcing farmers to consider other options. (Press photo James Grob.)
By James Grob, jgrob@charlescitypress.com

Many area farmers are still scrambling to get their corn planted, but continued rain and perpetual wet field conditions are forcing farmers to consider other options.

“It’s time to be concerned,” said Terry Basol, field agronomist and crop specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, who works out of Nashua. “Many of the growers are starting to consider whether it’s still feasible to plant corn, and if they’re willing to take the risk.”

In its crop progress report this week, the USDA said that U.S. corn farmers have the most corn acres left to plant, on this date, than they have ever had. Nationwide, corn planting is 49% complete, behind the 80% five-year average. On this week of the planting season, the most that U.S. farmers have ever had left was 47% of the crop. This year, that amount is 51%, with more rain in the forecast.

Iowa corn growers have 70 percent of the expected crop planted, five days behind last year and nine days behind the 5-year average, which is 89%. Even with limited days suitable for fieldwork, farmers in the northern districts and east central Iowa managed to plant at least a quarter of their expected corn crop last week.

“Last week gave us a good opportunity to get a lot of acres planted, but we’re still behind where we want to be at this time,” Basol said. “We’re roughly two to three weeks behind optimum planting.”

Basol said that ideally the corn is in the ground by May 1, and after May 20, there is a substantial negative impact on yield potential. He said farmers need to take a look at their crop insurance and determine if that’s better than putting a crop in the field at this late date.

“They also need to consider what type of cover crop could be utilized to try to preserve that ground,” he said.

According to the Iowa Farm Bureau, the final crop insurance planting date for Iowa is May 31. After that, farmers lose 1% of their revenue guarantee each day. The final planting date for soybeans is June 15.

After June 1, Iowa farmers with unplanted corn acres have three choices: plant corn as soon as possible with a reduced guarantee, shift to soybeans with full insurance coverage, or apply for prevented planting.

“We have a challenge ahead,” Basol said.

USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) has stated that corn and soybeans can be planted as a cover crop on prevent-planted acres for 2019, similarly to 2013. If soybeans are used, plant at 60 – 80,000 seeds per acre in narrow rows (15-inch or less) or broadcast seeded. The idea is to get canopy closure as quickly as possible to provide weed competition. Soybeans would be preferable over corn as a prevent plant cover crop option. There are other species that may be cheaper than corn or soybean seed.

The cover crop, whichever species, cannot be hayed, grazed or cut for silage until after Nov. 1. No seed can be harvested without prevent plant reduction.

Basol recommended that farmers keep their eyes and ears open for upcoming ISU Extension and Outreach meetings. There will be a webinar on May 24 at 9 a.m. to address concerns and questions. Field agronomists Virgil Schmitt and Rebecca Vittetoe will discuss late planting options and considerations for both corn and soybeans.

The webinar, which is free and open to the public, will also include a discussion on crop insurance and prevented planting policies and considerations by farm management specialist Ryan Drollette. The webinar can be accessed through the following link: https://connect.extension.iastate.edu/lppp/.  It will be recorded and uploaded online to https://iastate.box.com/v/delayed-prevent-plant-webinar for those unable to join live.

According to the USDA, 27 percent of the expected soybean crop has been planted, eight days behind last year and nine days behind average. Three percent of the crop has emerged, six days behind average.

“Soybeans — we still have some time,” Basol said. “We still have an open door yet to get soybeans planted, if the weather switches around and cooperates. So that’s an upside, we still have good yield potential for soybeans.”

Basol said, as always, the most important message he wants to get out to farmers is to be careful.

‘Always the big thing is to stay safe,” Basol said. “When there’s a lot of pressure to get things done in a short amount of time, accidents can happen a lot quicker. So safety is very important.”

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