Across Iowa, farmers are starting spring fieldwork, and corn and soybean planting will soon be underway. Fertilizer is being spread, and anhydrous ammonia is being knifed-in in some areas. Trucks pulling tanks of anhydrous have been rolling from fertilizer dealers to farmers’ fields for over a week now. Seed and other supplies are also being delivered. Social distancing between farmers and delivery people is being practiced to protect against the spread of the coronavirus.
“We encourage farmers to have a backup plan and identify someone who can help with planting in case you get sick,” says Mike Naig, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture. “Farmers should also be mindful about who they allow to ride along in the buddy seat. Social distancing guidelines apply to the tractor, too.”
Seed is already in the ground at the site of the 2020 Farm Progress Show at Boone. Oats and alfalfa seed, that is. Corn and soybeans? Not quite yet. But they will be planted as soon as the soil is ready to get those crops up and growing early so they can mature in time for harvest. This year’s “Big Show” with field demonstrations including harvesting is scheduled for Sept. 1-3 at the central Iowa site.
Eric Ziel, one of the host farmers for the Iowa Farm Progress Show, sent me some pictures last week of the oats and alfalfa seeding. The photos show a new blue tractor pulling a Brillion drill. Eric said they were seeding the parking lots with oats as a cover or nurse crop for alfalfa. The alfalfa was seeded at 25 pounds per acre. “The ground was really working well,” he noted. “The surface soil was dry enough that the Brillion was kicking up a little dust.”
Generally, wet conditions slowed fieldwork across Iowa last week, as preparations for the 2020 planting season are underway.
Iowa crop report starts
The first weekly Iowa Crop Progress and Condition Report for 2020 was released April 6 by the Iowa Department of Agriculture. The report is released weekly from April through November and is based on observations by farmers and other volunteer reporters. USDA’s National Ag Statistics Service in Des Moines gathers and analyzes the information. The complete weekly report is available on USDA’s site at nass.usda.gov/ia. Following is a summary of the April 6 report.
Fields remained wet in many areas of Iowa during the week ending April 5. Statewide, there were 2.7 days suitable for fieldwork. Wet conditions slowed fieldwork activities; however, there were reports of producers applying anhydrous, spreading manure and planting oats.
Topsoil moisture levels rated 0% very short, 1% short, 77% adequate and 22% surplus. Subsoil moisture levels rated 0% very short, 1% short, 77% adequate and 22% surplus. Iowa’s expected oat crop for 2020 is now 8% planted, five days ahead of last year but two days behind the five-year average.
Pastures and hay have started to green up. Livestock conditions are generally good with spring calving going well for most cattle operations.
Justin Glisan, state climatologist, says rainfall last week was below normal in most areas of Iowa, but the state is going into spring with ample reserves of moisture already in the top 6 feet of soil. So, it doesn’t take much rain for the fields to become muddy and too wet to do fieldwork.
Glisan says temperatures for the week ending April 5 were near normal statewide, with an average temperature of 43 degrees F, about one-tenth of a degree below normal. While planting looks like it may get off to a soggy start in some areas, farmers will likely see warmer temperatures compared to last year and, hopefully, will be able to get crops planted on time.