Wallaces Farmer

Planting progress stalls in Iowa

Weather turnaround is starting to cause planting delay concerns.

Gil Gullickson, editor of Wallaces Farmer

May 13, 2024

4 Min Read
planted cornfield in Keokuk County, Iowa
MUDDY FIELDS. This scene — from a planted cornfield in Keokuk County in southeastern Iowa — is typical of planted and unplanted fields across Iowa. Rebecca Vittetoe

Don Friedrichsen is typical of many Iowa farmers these days when he discussed planting progress last week.

“We haven’t turned a wheel for two weeks,” says the 2008 Iowa Master Farmer, who farms with family near Holstein.

This was largely the story statewide, as fieldwork activities were limited. Rainfall across the state limited Iowa farmers to just 1.4 days suitable for fieldwork during the week ending May 5, according to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service.

Topsoil moisture condition across the state was rated as:

  • Four percent very short

  • Twelve percent short

  • Sixty-five percent adequate

  • Nineteen percent surplus

The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship reported just 8% of Iowa’s expected corn crop was planted during the week ending May 5, for a total of 47% planted. This meant progress went from ahead of average to lagging two days behind both 2023 and the five-year average, Seven percent of the corn crop has emerged, three days ahead of last year and one day ahead of the average.

Soybean planting progress fell behind the previous year, with 5% of Iowa’s expected soybean crop planted during the week ending May 5, for a total of 30% of the expected soybean crop planted, two days behind last year. Four percent of the soybean crop has emerged.

Progress by area

Friedrichsen’s experience coincides with what Angie Rieck-Hinz is seeing. As of midweek, the Iowa State University Extension field agronomist says farmers had not turned a wheel for the past 12 days in north-central Iowa. Several days will likely pass before field activity resumes.

The good news is in her area, she estimates 75% of the corn is planted, along with 40% of the soybeans. Corn and soybeans that were planted April 15 and earlier have emerged, but they did take three weeks or more to do so.

So far, no major maladies have been reported in Rieck-Hinz’s area, with the exception of a few alfalfa weevil calls in north-central Iowa.

Further east in northern Iowa, Gentry Sorenson reports the same for fieldwork status. As of the middle of last week, the ISU Extension field agronomist reports the area he serves received between 3.5 and 5 inches of rain.

Some had difficulty applying preemergence applications of herbicides, due to high winds when fields were dry at planting [before all of the rainfall]), he says.

Black cutworm trapping is also underway, which has revealed significant moth flights in Hancock and Buena Vista counties.

In the central Iowa region that Meaghan Anderson covers, rain overnight last Monday stalled out any fieldwork that was occurring. The ISU Extension field agronomist estimates 0.5 to 2 inches of rain fell that night. When this is accompanied by more midweek rainfall, most farmers will be out of the field until early this week at the earliest.

“I believe some farmers are getting anxious as we approach that mid-May time frame, where yields start to drop off,” she says.

Meanwhile, “Weeds have taken advantage of the rainfall and are germinating,” she says.

“I’ve seen many of our typical summer annual weeds up already in areas that had yet to be treated with herbicide: waterhemp, foxtails, woolly cupgrass and morning glories,” Anderson says.

She’s also observed some injury from preemergence herbicides on early-planted soybeans. However, she doesn’t know how widespread or problematic it will be. She says it’s the first year in a while when injury potential could occur due to factors such as early planting under dry conditions coupled with rainfall closer to emergence.

Fieldwork also has been limited in the east-central Iowa area that Rebecca Vittetoe covers.

“Some folks did get in the field between rain events, especially in areas that received less rain,” says the ISU Extension field agronomist. “Hopefully, the weather cooperates, and we can get back in the fields soon.”

Farmers in the southeastern Iowa area that Virgil Schmitt, ISU Extension field agronomist, covers have also been at a standstill. This is especially true for those south of Highway 92.

“It will be a while before they get back in the field, so there is some nervousness there,” Schmitt says. “The prevented-plant for crop insurance question is starting to surface.”

However, planting has progressed well in the northern counties Schmitt covers. He reports early planted corn and soybeans are emerging.

“From a pest [weeds, insects, diseases] perspective, my concern is bean leaf beetles on the first emerging soybeans in an area or soybeans located near alfalfa fields,” he says. “Insecticide seed treatments should manage bean leaf beetle well, but the fields still should be monitored.”

More ISU Extension field agronomist observations can be found here.

About the Author(s)

Gil Gullickson

editor of Wallaces Farmer, Farm Progress

Gil Gullickson grew up on a farm that he now owns near Langford, S.D., and graduated with an agronomy degree from South Dakota State University. Earlier in his career, he spent 13 years as a Farm Progress editor, covering Minnesota and the Dakotas.

Gullickson is a widely respected and decorated ag journalist, earning the Agricultural Communicators Network writing award for Writer of the Year three times, and winning Story of the Year four times. He is a past winner of the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists’ Food and Agriculture Organization Award for Food Security. He has served as president of both ACN and the North American Agricultural Journalists.

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