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After delay, planting picks up speedAfter delay, planting picks up speed

Cold weather may have delayed planting and hindered cover crop growth, but it’s also held back winter annual weeds.

Tyler Harris

May 8, 2018

4 Min Read
PLANTERS ROLLING: After cold temperatures persisted into early and mid-April, corn and soybean growers wasted no time getting into the fields once soil temperatures warmed up.

This April was one of the coldest on record for many parts of Nebraska. Daytime highs hovered in the 40s and 50s for most of April, with soil temperatures inching their way up toward the end of the month. So, when farmers saw a window in the last several weeks, they took it.

However, planting progress for corn and soybeans has been highly variable, notes Keith Glewen, Nebraska Extension educator in Saunders County.

“There are farmers who are just getting started on corn planting, and there are farmers who are done,” Glewen says. “We have farmers that were planting soybeans at the same time they were planting corn. We have farmers that will be planting soybeans for another 10 days to two weeks. It’s all over the board.”

Glewen notes that this part of southeast Nebraska has plenty of subsoil moisture after rain in mid-March, and recent rains last week have helped — although many parts of southeast Nebraska are still abnormally dry.

This has posed problems for growers who applied burndown and preemergence herbicides, but haven’t had the rainfall needed to activate them.

Planting progress varies
Jenny Rees, Nebraska Extension educator in York, Seward and Clay counties, notes some farmers in the southernmost part of the state have finished planting corn.

“Once they were able to get going, it’s moved pretty quickly. From Clay County south, we’ve seen a lot of soybeans planted before or at the same time as corn, following Extension recommendations for optimum soybean yields. Some growers have had two planters or a planter and a drill going, depending on the machinery available. Growers in those counties have moved pretty fast,” says Rees. “In York County, we’re probably 80% or more done with corn and 15% or more done with soybeans. That will change very quickly in the next few days.”

Before the rain in early May, high winds combined with loose soil from tillage resulted in dust storms in parts of York and Seward counties. “Everyone’s hoping for rain to settle the dust, activate herbicides, and add moisture into the seedbed that was lost from high winds. With more growers finishing up planting, that’s the top concern right now,” Rees adds.

Some parts of eastern Nebraska, like Dodge, Burt and Washington counties, received up to 4 inches of rain in early May. “That's going to slow down most of Dodge, Burt and Washington counties over the next couple days. Prior to the rain, we were 25% to 30% finished on corn, and about 10% of our soybeans were planted,” says Nathan Mueller, Nebraska Extension educator in Dodge and Washington counties.

This April was the coldest on record for Fremont, Neb. However, Mueller notes growers aren’t far behind last year’s planting progress. “Some people are finished and some have just started. It’s widely variable by individual producer,” he says. “A lot of growers planted soybeans the same time they did corn — it’s a matter of how many man hours and the equipment they had available.”

Meanwhile, this winter and spring’s cold weather hasn’t been conducive to cover crop growth, but it’s also kept winter annual weeds at bay.

“Winter annual weeds are starting to take off, but they’re a lot smaller than they are normally at this time of year because of the cold,” adds Mueller. “The same is true of cover crops. I notice more people are planting soybeans into green cereal rye and spraying at the same time. But the rye is starting to get some biomass to it. If we keep getting rain, that rye is going to take off and grow.”

Dry conditions persist
Many growers in Phelps and Gosper counties started planting during the last week of April. This part of south-central Nebraska missed most of the rain that showered eastern Nebraska, and planters have been moving forward at a steady pace, says Todd Whitney, Nebraska Extension educator in the area. Most growers will likely be finished planting corn by midweek.

“We’re about two weeks behind, but the UNL Hybrid-Maize crop models this year have shown we still have optimum potential for yields, because we’re seeing a longer growing season in the fall than we used to,” says Whitney. “As long as we have everything planted by midweek, I think we’ll be in good shape.”

Further west near North Platte, Neb., planting progress is further behind, notes Chuck Burr, Nebraska Extension crops and water educator at the West Central Research and Extension Center. Corn was about 25% to 30% planted in the area last week, while most hadn’t started planting soybeans yet.

“I’ve talked to a couple producers that haven’t started yet because of the cool conditions. I’d say most will be rolling by [the week of May 7],” says Burr.

While there was a fair amount of subsoil moisture going into spring, Burr notes the Drought Monitor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is showing more parts of southern Nebraska as “abnormally dry,” or D0 on the Drought Monitor. “We didn’t get much precipitation in April — some light 1- to 2-inch snows. We’re on the short end,” Burr says. “That’s why I’m hoping we’ll see some moisture from these upcoming rains.”


About the Author(s)

Tyler Harris

Editor, Wallaces Farmer

Tyler Harris is the editor for Wallaces Farmer. He started at Farm Progress as a field editor, covering Missouri, Kansas and Iowa. Before joining Farm Progress, Tyler got his feet wet covering agriculture and rural issues while attending the University of Iowa, taking any chance he could to get outside the city limits and get on to the farm. This included working for Kalona News, south of Iowa City in the town of Kalona, followed by an internship at Wallaces Farmer in Des Moines after graduation.

Coming from a farm family in southwest Iowa, Tyler is largely interested in how issues impact people at the producer level. True to the reason he started reporting, he loves getting out of town and meeting with producers on the farm, which also gives him a firsthand look at how agriculture and urban interact.

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