Patience is a Virtue during #Plant18

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Yesterday’s high of 70 degrees Fahrenheit at Latham Hi-Tech Seeds, combined with a warm, dry short-range forecast, has all of us itching to get in the field. With such beautiful weather, it’s hard to remember that we received more than a foot of snow last week.

Record-setting cold temperatures and snow fall in the middle of this month have slowed down field work. Temperatures on April 15 set new record lows with daytime highs in the 30s as compared to the 60-degree average for April in Des Moines. Cities in North Iowa received more than a foot of snow in the seven days that followed. Waterloo received 4.9 inches of snow Sunday, April 15, which shattered the previous snowfall record that was set during the statewide blizzard in April 1973. Nearly 8 inches of snow fell Mason City on April 17, bringing the April snow fall total to an all-time high of 25.5 inches.

It’s amazing how quickly soil temperatures have rebounded! Last week soil temperatures hovered around the freezing mark. This week soil temperatures are averaging 47 degrees in Iowa’s northern counties, so we’re getting close to that desired 50-degree soil temperature for planting corn. In addition to checking soil temps, remember to check the moderate and long-range weather forecasts. Be sure the warm, dry weather holds long enough that newly planted seeds won’t imbibe cold water that can lead to chilling effect or that ambient air temperatures won’t freeze seedlings as they emerge.

Temperatures are only half the battle. Wait for fields to dry before taking your equipment out of the shed. Working soils that are too wet leads to yield loss and problems during the growing season:

  1. Causes nutrient deficiencies
  2. Reduces crop productivity
  3. Restricts root development
  4. Reduces soil aeration
  5. Decreases soil available water
  6. Reduces infiltration rate
  7. Increases bulk density
  8. Increases sediment and nutrient losses
  9. Increases surface runoff
  10. Damages soil structure

Practice patience. Remember to let soil conditions, not the calendar date, dictate when you plant. Believe me, I know firsthand how hard this is to do! I also know that we’ll be glad we waited a few more days.