Rain Makes Mud, And That Is Good

Iowa Farm Scene

Iowa farmers are itching to plant and the state got much-needed rain this week, but you don't hear anyone complaining.

Published on: April 12, 2013

The U.S. Drought Monitor's weekly report is issued each Thursday, and the report issued April 11 reflected rain that fell through Tuesday, April 9. The report is compiled by the University of Nebraska, USDA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It's available at www.droughtmonitor.unl.edu/.

How important is soil temperature for determining when to plant corn?
Agronomists say don't plant corn until soil temperature is 50 degrees F at 4-inch depth. How important is that number when you look at the calendar and see it is April 12?

"That's kind of a magic number, 50 degrees, for planting corn," observes Jim Fawcett, an Iowa State University Extension field agronomist in eastern Iowa. "That's when corn will germinate -- a soil temperature of 50 degrees or warmer. The reason for not planting before then is the seed will take up water with soil temperatures cooler than 50 degrees. The seed will swell, but doesn't germinate. That's not a good combination because the seed will tend to rot if it's just sitting there swelling and not germinating. The seed imbibes the water but doesn't germinate because it's too cold."

Fawcett adds, "Particularly during April, I would definitely be paying attention to soil temperature before I decide to plant corn."

Water was flowing out of farm drainage tiles in eastern Iowa earlier this week
During the week of April 7 Iowa received that needed rain, although in some areas the rain came too much, too fast. Are there any concerns that the soil isn't going to be ready to go, ready for planting, when the temperature and the calendar finally say "it's time to go to the field?" Fawcett and other ISU Extension field agronomists from various areas of the state don't think we'll be seeing many planters going in the fields next week -- the week beginning April 14. "Our fields are pretty wet now here in eastern Iowa, and we actually do have some excess moisture in places," says Fawcett. "But I don't hear farmers complaining after going through the historic drought of last year."

Keep in mind that it's still early yet to be planting corn. It's easy to think that Iowa is running late on planting when you compare this spring to what happened last year when it was so warm in April. The ideal corn planting window is April 20 to May 5 in Iowa. "So we still have time -- today is April 12," says Fawcett. "A lot of farmers now a days have big planters and enough help so they can get their corn acreage planted in three to five days. If you can do that, there's no sense in trying to push it and get everything planted on April 20. We have plenty of time yet to get this year's corn in the ground."


It is important to know what your options and choices are after the drought, and to have the best approach for your farm going into 2013. Download our free report Five Post-Drought Strategies For A Better 2013.