Can't Plant? Put Your Empty Fields To Good Use

Iowa Farm Scene

Cover crops and conservation practice construction can be an option for farmers unable to plant corn or soybeans this spring.

Published on: June 17, 2013

It's mid-June and Iowa farmers are still trying to get their intended soybean acres planted, but time is running out. For corn, many have already thrown in the towel. Mother Nature hasn't been helping out as thunderstorms roll through again every time the remaining fields get almost dry enough to plant. As of June 9 statewide Iowa still had 40% of its intended 2013 soybean acreage yet to be planted.

The deadline to plant soybeans was June 15 to receive full crop insurance coverage. After that, the late planting period runs through July 10, which reduces the crop insurance guarantee by 1% per day until the crop is planted. If you want to take the "prevented planting" option offered by crop insurance, you'll get 60% of the crop insurance revenue guarantee. Prevented planting claims must be filed by July 10. For fields that average 50 bushels per acre, that's $328 per acre.

WASHED OUT: Planting plans have been washed out by continued wet weather for many farmers; theyve quit trying to plant corn as of mid-June. And a lot of acres that were going to be in soybeans will likely go to "prevented planting" as well if it doesnt quit raining soon. Whether you take the prevent planting option on crop insurance or if you go ahead and plant corn and soybeans late, there will be revenue shortfalls.
WASHED OUT: Planting plans have been washed out by continued wet weather for many farmers; they've quit trying to plant corn as of mid-June. And a lot of acres that were going to be in soybeans will likely go to "prevented planting" as well if it doesn't quit raining soon. Whether you take the prevent planting option on crop insurance or if you go ahead and plant corn and soybeans late, there will be revenue shortfalls.

Farmers are giving up planting corn after June 15; and we may see acres that were going into soybeans end up in "prevented planting" as well

As long as there are soybeans to plant, most farmers will try until the end of the month of June to get them planted before they make a prevented planting claim, says Terry Basol, an Iowa State University Extension field agronomist at Nashua in northeast Iowa. ISU research shows soybeans can still achieve 60% to 80% of their yield potential if planted in mid-June.~~~PAGE_BREAK_HERE~~~

For corn, the final planting date for full crop insurance coverage in Iowa is May 31. Then the late planting period runs through June 24 and the crop insurance guarantee is reduced by 1% per day until the corn is planted. If you decide to take a prevented planting claim on corn, it must be filed by June 25 to receive the 60% of revenue guarantee. At 185 bushels per acre, that's $533 per acre. For the most part, the yield potential of corn drops in half if planted in the latter half of June. As of June 9, 8% of this year's Iowa corn crop was left to plant, according to the weekly USDA survey. Given the reduced yield potential of corn planted now, and the already saturated soils and a forecast for continued wet weather, farmers predict that tens of thousands of acres of crops won't be planted especially in the northern Iowa counties.

What are your options for land you will take "prevented planting" on this year?

Farmers are being encouraged to consider planting a cover crop, build conservation practices such as terraces, grass waterways and buffers or do both on land they are unable to plant to corn and beans this year due to the historically wet spring weather. 

"This has been the wettest spring on record, and as a result a significant part of our state's corn and soybean crops have not yet been planted," noted Bill Northey, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture, on June 14. "It is critically important that farmers work with their crop insurance agent to understand all their planting options. If farmers do use the prevented planting option being offered by crop insurance for corn and soybeans, I encourage the farmers to consider planting a cover crop on those fields. Or, use the fields as an opportunity to install soil and water conservation practices such as grass waterways, buffer strips or terraces. Or, better yet do both on your land that's been impacted by the continued rain and prevented planting this year."~~~PAGE_BREAK_HERE~~~

One option is to leave "prevented planting" land idle, but establishing a cover crop on it would provide many benefits

The final planting date for full crop insurance coverage in Iowa for corn is May 31 and for soybeans is June 15, notes Northey. After these dates farmers have several options, one being to leave the land idle. Planting a cover crop in this case can help prevent erosion and the cover crop ties up the nutrients in the soil, which reduces the potential for nitrate and phosphorus to move into the state's rivers, lakes and streams.

Farmers unable to grow a crop this year may also want to consider building additional conservation practices on the impacted land, and conservation cost-share funds are available to help. These practices can be built this year during the growing season without impacting a growing crop. Farmers can work with their local USDA Service Center and local Soil and Water Conservation District to find out more information about establishing cover crops, conservation practice construction and the availability of cost-share funding.

New NRCS fact sheet offers helpful guidelines for planting cover crops

In addition, Iowa's USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service recently developed a fact sheet for planting cover crops on prevented planting fields. The NRCS fact sheet includes a table listing diverse cover crop mixes to address specific natural resource concerns. This fact sheet is available in the "Agronomy" section of their website or at your local NRCS office.

Farmers seeking more information about their crop insurance options should contact their local insurance provider or the USDA Risk Management Agency's St. Paul regional office at 651-290-3304, by email rsomn@rma.usda.gov, or online.