Wallaces Farmer

Read advice from Iowa’s Extension field agronomists as they report on planting progress in their regions.

Rod Swoboda

April 30, 2020

7 Min Read
Planter in field
START OFF RIGHT: Ensuring the seed is at proper depth, with enough soil moisture and a properly closed trench, is key to speedy germination and even emergence. Farm Progress

This week has been the start of planting for many in Iowa. After the recent cold spell, conditions are favorable to start fieldwork back up again. It’s likely a significant portion of crop ground in Iowa will get planted this week, with the majority of the weather forecast being supportive of field activities.

Soil conditions are generally working well. Iowa State University agronomists have received several questions about seed placement. All the technology in the world does not eliminate getting out of the tractor cab and digging behind the planter to evaluate where you are placing the seed. They point out that downforce is a major factor for proper seed placement. Keep an eye on changing soil conditions within a field to ensure the seed isn’t being placed too deep or shallow. For information on setting downforce on your planter, check out this recent video from ISU Digital Ag.

Also, the agronomists advise monitoring row cleaners and closing wheels to ensure soil is properly prepared ahead of the openers, and the seed trench is closed after seed is placed into it. Different settings may likely be needed for the headlands compared to other areas of the field.

The past week provided a big window for fieldwork ranging from tillage and fertilizer applications to spraying and planting across the state. According to the April 26 USDA Crop Progress Report, about 39% of the corn and 9% of the soybeans in the state of Iowa have been planted. ISU Extension field agronomists share what they are seeing and hearing around the state for field conditions and planting progress.  

North-central Iowa

Angie Rieck-Hinz, Region 3. “Planting progress is off to an exceptional start in the counties I cover. Monday’s crop report showed north-central Iowa at 54% of the corn and 9% of the soybeans planted, and central Iowa was at 45% of corn and 9% of soybeans planted. My best guess is planting progress in my nine counties is more like 75% on corn and 25% on beans. Many farmers are done planting and have commented “this is the best planting conditions we’ve had in two years. 

“Others have commented, ‘We need a rain.’ As I write this, we had showers move through this morning (April 28), but at this time it doesn’t seem we’ve had significant rainfall amounts. I haven’t seen any crops emerged yet, but I’ve heard there is some corn spiking from the earliest planting dates. The only issues shared to date have been concerns with nitrogen volatilization from urea or UAN solutions that were surface-applied and not incorporated.”

Northeast Iowa

Terry Basol, Region 4. “For my part of northeast Iowa, this past week has provided a good opportunity for field operations, including the start of planting. Soil temperatures started off cool, but by end of last week were past 50 degrees F at 4-inch depth according to ISU Mesonet. The first part of last week allowed for a lot of field preparation with dry fertilizer and nitrogen applications as well as herbicide application. Toward the latter part of last week, more planters were in the fields. According to Monday's USDA Crop Progress Report, growers in northeast and north-central Iowa had 28% and 54% of the corn acres planted, as of April 26.  Also, 20% of the oats have emerged in northeast Iowa.” 

Northwest Iowa

Paul Kassel, Region 2. “Corn and soybean planting occurred at a near record pace in much of my area. I would estimate that 75% of the corn crop is planted and that 35% of the soybean crop is planted. Farmers report that both the corn and soybean crop was planted into very good soil conditions. Recent rainfall has been very scattered.  In fact, a few farmers report a need for some rainfall. Dry soil conditions and a need for rainfall in April is a real departure from the 2018 and 2019 spring seasons.”

Southwest and west central

Mike Witt, Region 6. “The theme for the week in west-central Iowa is plant, plant, spray and plant. According to USDA reports, my contacts and general observations, farmers in western Iowa are around 45% done planting corn, 20% done with beans.

“Not all farmers in the area are at the same planting progress. Some are further ahead for each crop while others have not turned a planter wheel. These differences depend on individual farmers’ management plans and decisions. However, with this increased planting progress, farmers are going into this season with a leg up on previous years for having crops in the ground.

“Spring reseeding of pastures and other grass mixes is underway. Field conditions have been good to get these planted. Cover crops have taken off this week and are growing with adequate moisture and warm temperatures. Make sure you plan ahead for your termination window on these fields and leave plenty of time to accomplish your goals. Stay safe and plant to your field conditions. Not all fields, equipment and farmers are created equal, so know what you can and cannot do in order to have a successful start this year.”

Aaron Saeugling, Region 10. “Progress in southwest Iowa is rolling along. We received variable rainfall late last week and over the weekend in some locations. Farmers have been busy planting corn and soybeans. My estimate is we have 50% of the corn planted and around 25% of the soybeans in this part of the state. Soil conditions are better than in years past. Pasture and hay conditions are poor to good from cool weather and, in some locations, lack of a nice warm rainfall. With the current conditions and weather forecast, I expect another big planting week.”

Central Iowa

Meaghan Anderson, Region 7. “Last week was big for fieldwork in central Iowa. The USDA Crop Progress Report released April 27 says central Iowa had 45% of corn and 9% of soybeans planted. I estimate both are higher than that now. Crops this week were still being planted into good moisture soil, but most farmers I visited with would appreciate the rainfall forecast for April 29 and a small break after more than seven days straight of fieldwork.

“Keep an eye out for emergence of some of the earliest planted corn and soybeans. These stands will need to be evaluated and fields monitored for loss due to imbibitional chilling. Phone calls and messages in the last week have been primarily about identifying and managing mystery plants (Canada thistle, for one) and soil testing."

East central, southeast and south central

Rebecca Vittetoe, Region 8. “This past week was big for fieldwork. Planters really started rolling Monday, April 20. According to Monday’s USDA Crop Progress Report, about 14% of corn and 9% of soybeans in east-central Iowa have been planted, and 32% of corn and 10% of soybeans in southeast Iowa. From what I’ve seen and heard, some areas in the 10 counties I cover are likely closer to 60% of the corn planted and 10% to 15% of soybeans planted. Common questions this past week have been on soil temperature, planting considerations, weed identification and early-season scouting.”

Virgil Schmitt, Region 9. “Rainfall last week was generally light with under 1 inch reported nearly everywhere in the counties I cover. The weather allowed a great deal of field activity this past week from tillage and fertilizing to spraying and planting. I estimate about 25% of the corn is planted, with a higher percent planted south of Highway 92 and a lower percent north of Highway 92. For soybeans, I estimate 5% of the soybeans have been planted, again with a lower percent north of Highway 92 and higher percent south. Questions last week tended to focus on planting issues, herbicide application issues and insect (black cutworm and true armyworm) moth flights. Insect information can be found here."

Rainfall totals over the last week for the state of Iowa, as of April 28, can be viewed online at water.weather.gov/precip. Also, to find your ISU Extension field agronomist on a map of Iowa along with their contact information, if you have crop-related questions, visit here.




About the Author(s)

Rod Swoboda

Rod Swoboda is a former editor of Wallaces Farmer and is now retired.

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