Looking for the Silver Lining

Featured-RainAfter awaking once again this morning to loud, booming thunder and sharp streaks of lightning, I lay still and willed my body to return to slumber. That’s easier said than done! My mind started to drift…

Mason City, which is about 20 miles from where we live, set a record on Sunday for the maximum daily rainfall. Nearly 2.5 inches of rain fell on Easter, breaking the previous record of 1.7 inches set in 1977.

Then I began to think about the weekly rain totals that I researched in order to write yesterday’s crop report. For the week ending April 20, rain fall varied across the state from 0.07 inches at Rock Rapids in Northwest Iowa to 4.87 inches at Pella in Central Iowa. The statewide average precipitation was 1.52 inches or nearly double the weekly normal of 0.85 inches. This was the wettest week in 42 weeks, which brings us to late June 2013. (Like any of us really want to remember just how wet the planting season was last year!)

Because I’m an optimist – as any farmer must be to keep planting for 40 or so seasons – I decided to look for the silver lining. Rain is needed, albeit we wouldn’t vote for rain at this particular moment. We’d like to schedule timely rains throughout the growing season, but the weather is obviously beyond our control. Hopefully, this rain will soak in where it’s needed.

DroughtMonitor_april14The U.S. Drought Monitor shows many areas across Minnesota, Nebraska and Iowa remain in a moderate drought. Topsoil moisture levels statewide are reported by the department of agriculture as 6% very short, 22% short, 65% adequate and 7% surplus. Subsoil moisture levels rated 16% very short, 39% short, 44% adequate and 1% surplus. Northwest Iowa is the driest with 18% of topsoil reported in very short condition.

Planting season is a test of patience, but time has shown us that good things come to those who wait for the right seedbed conditions! Don’t push the panic button. Let soil conditions – not the calendar – dictate planting dates.  At this point, fields are not yet fit for planting and yield potential will be more negatively affected by planting in wet soils than waiting even a couple of weeks for better conditions.

Corn planted into wet soils is prone to problems throughout the growing season such as: stunted plant growth; slow infiltration of water and/or ponding; high surface runoff under normal or light rainfall; poor root system development, or rootless corn; and even nutrient deficiency. Potassium deficiency is caused by corn roots not being able to take up potassium from compacted soils.

Set up #crop14 for success! Work your crop plan. Remember, we’re still within the window of opportunity for maximum yields. There are literally weeks of planting dates remaining, so be patient and wait for suitable conditions.