More Planting Woes - The Final Chapter

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What is a normal planting season anyway?

Published on: May 19, 2011

What is a normal planting season anyway?

This spring has been frustrating to many farmers across the nation. Considering my usual planting problems, as described in my previous blog entries, it is par for the course for me. But farmers around the nation have had reason for extra concern. Between tornadoes, flooding, snow, late frost, wind and generally cold, wet conditions, farmers are left scratching their heads about how to get the crop in the ground.

In spite of all of these obstacles, American farmers have been getting the seed in the ground wherever and whenever Mother Nature would let them at break neck pace. It is a testament to the hardworking nature and determination of farmers in general.

The thing that always frustrates me most about a spring like this one is that term, “optimum planting date.” Extension experts, crop consultants and seed dealers are always hounding us to get our crops in the ground as early as possible. While these folks know that early planted crops, with the possible exception of winter wheat, which should not be planted too early in the fall in our part of the world, always yield best.

So, the rationale is that the earlier we get seeds in the ground, the better. That said, we understand that weather can be a volatile partner is all of this. Sometimes ground conditions that are too wet and cold cause problems with early planted crops. Compaction, pests and poor stands might follow crops that are planted against the tiny field work windows weather conditions provide.

There are years, like this one, when it is downright impossible to get crops planted on time. With thousands of acres to cover and hundreds of thousands of dollars invested in the crop, farmers are rightfully concerned with planting time.

Yet, usually if we have a late spring, the old timers will say that we will normally have a late fall. “Don’t worry. Things even out,” my Dad would say. Good advice.

What the experts should tell farmers, so we don’t panic and lose too much sleep over correct planting dates, is the optimal planting dates for our region in a “normal” year. That statement takes the pressure off. It allows us to make judgment calls on planting dates for the region, without the excessive worry when things go wrong. We already have enough to worry about.

Of course, in our part of Nebraska, there is no normal crop year. Normal for us is the average of two extremes, which are much more likely to take place.