Wallaces Farmer

Welcome rainfall occurs amid planting in Iowa

Planting gets an early start in many areas of Iowa. Rainfall alleviates in many parts, although dry conditions remain in some places.

Gil Gullickson, editor of Wallaces Farmer

April 29, 2024

4 Min Read
Planter in field
PLANTERS ARE ROLLING: Corn planters, such as this one that was planting into a cover crop, are rolling across Iowa.Gil Gullickson

Rainfall put a halt to planting progress early last week in many parts of Iowa. However, sunshine returned midweek and enabled planting to proceed. The most recent Iowa crop progress and condition report showed that corn planted reached 13% complete, three days ahead of last year and the five-year average. Overall, 8% of the expected soybean crop has been planted, four days ahead of last year and six days ahead of the average.

Southeastern Iowa

Clarabell Probasco, an Iowa State University Extension field agronomist from Bloomfield, says soil conditions have continued to improve over the past few weeks due to good rainfall amounts accumulating over most of the area.

Many producers were able to get a field or two planted before the last system of showers popped up, she says. Equipment for all aspects of spring’s work — dry fertilizer, anhydrous ammonia, preemergence herbicide applications, tillage and planting — were all starting to move again midweek.

Notably, “There [is] loads of pressure from alfalfa weevils, which is taking quite a few producers by surprise,” she says.

North-central Iowa

Angie Rieck-Hinz, an ISU Extension field agronomist based in Clarion, says 15% to 18% of corn was planted early last week in Webster, Hamilton and Hardin counties.  North of there — in Wright, Franklin, Cerro Gordo and Humboldt counties — about 8% to 10% of corn had been planted, with Worth County coming in at about 5%. Some farmers also were planting soybeans.

For the most part, fields Rieck-Hinz was in early last week had cool soils, but planting conditions were good.

“The upper 2 inches had dried out, and there was good moisture below that. Anyone I saw planting [April 22] was not picking up mud press wheels,” she says.

Not surprisingly, tilled fields are drier than fields with residue and terminated cover crops, Rieck-Hinz says. 

So far, she says she has not heard of any early-season issues.  One thing she is looking for is crusting on highly tilled if they receive heavy rainfall.

Further northwest, around Algona, Gentry Sorenson, an ISU Extension agronomist, said 1.5 to 2 inches of rainfall fell in the region he serves from April 15 through April 23. “The rainfall provided a break in planting due to wet conditions in the field,” he says. “The wind has been prevalent for the past several days, making herbicide applications difficult.”

Before the rainfall, applications of nitrogen, dry fertilizer and tillage work were occurring, Sorenson says.  Some planting was completed before the rain. Crop-planting progress as of April 21 was 19% for corn in northwest Iowa, although progress varied greatly by neighborhood, he says.

“Growing Degree Day accumulation is around 90 to 100 GDDs from April 10 to April 23 for my region,” Sorenson says. 

Early last week, farmers were able to get back to planning in their fields, he adds. Phone calls consisted of questions on nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium, as well as general planting questions, Sorenson says.

Southwestern Iowa

As of the middle of last week, southwest Iowa was still “on the dry side,” says R. Aaron Saeugling, an ISU field agronomist based in Atlantic.

“Planting progress is off to a rapid start due to more seasonal temperatures and good planting conditions,” he says. So far, the only growing season issue that’s emerged is alfalfa weevils, he says.

East-central Iowa

Planting that had started in the east-central Iowa region that Rebecca Vittetoe, an ISU Extension agronomist, serves was halted early last week due to rain and cooler temperatures. The rain was welcome and has helped improve soil moisture conditions, she says.

“Parts (like Linn, Benton and Jones counties) are still on the drier side but sitting good to get the crops out of the ground once we can get planted,” Vittetoe says. There are fields that look dry on top but are tacky underneath, she adds.

One concern: Alfalfa weevil larvae along with some pea aphids and even some lygus bugs have been emerging, she says. “The alfalfa is still short, but we are seeing plenty of alfalfa weevil larvae in some fields. I have been encouraging folks to scout.”

Eastern and southeastern Iowa

This area has differed from most parts of Iowa in that soil moisture in the counties that Virgil Schmitt serves as an ISU Extension agronomist has been very good, he says. April 23 was the first time he says he has seen serious planting activity.

“The tile lines are running, and I have seen more ponding and runoff than I have seen in over a year,” Schmitt says. “Winter annual weeds in untilled fields are the main issue at this point.”

As of midweek, he estimates that about 15% of corn is planted south of Highway 92 and 10% is planted north of Highway 92. He estimates that about 10% of soybeans are planted.

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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