Corn Planting Kicks Into High Gear

Iowa has 26% of its corn planted as of April 23. Some farmers are finished, others are just getting started. Rod Swoboda 

Published on: Apr 25, 2006

Iowa farmers are busy planting as fields dry out. The weekly weather and crop survey from Iowa Ag Statistics Service, released April 24, shows that Iowa has 26% of it's corn planted as of April 23. That compares to 15% last year at this time and the five-year average of 16%. About 23% of the state's corn crop was planted during this last week. Southwest and Southeast Iowa planted over one-third of their corn acreage.

Some farmers have completed their corn planting already, while others have just gotten started. Scattered reports of soybean planting showed up in the survey. Farmers are avoiding any unnecessary fieldwork due to high fuel and input costs.

The report says last week in Iowa there were 5 days suitable for fieldwork compared to 2.7 days last year at this time. Topsoil moisture is 5% very short, 14% short, 72% adequate and 9% surplus. Subsoil moisture is 9% very short, 21% short, 62% adequate and 8% surplus. Soil moisture levels are nearly identical to this time last year.

Pastures greening up rapidly

Oats seedings are 85% complete with 30% emerged, behind last year's progress of 91% seeded and 56% emerged. The five-year average is 34% emerged. Primary seedbed preparations are 63% complete compared to 68% last year and 64% for the five-year average. Fertilizer applications, at 82%, matched last year and are 6 points ahead of the five-year average.

Pasture and range conditions improved marginally rating 3% very poor, 7% poor, 38% fair, 43% good and 9% excellent. Many cows have now been turned out on pastures as they greened up rapidly. Some pasture condition concerns remain due to after-effects of last year's dry weather.

Many corn planters in fields now

"There's a lot of corn planting going on south of highway 34," says Virgil Schmitt, Iowa State University extension crop specialist in southeast Iowa. "My guess is that the corn planting in those areas from Ottumwa to Burlington is about 80% done. They've been in the fields for a week planting corn. I'd say soybeans in that area are 30% planted."

But as you go north towards highway 92 from Washington, Iowa, toward Des Moines, Schmitt says the corn planting has been hampered by wetter fields. About 50% of the corn is planted in that area, and maybe 15% of the soybeans. As you go north of highway 92, farmers really got cranked up planting this past weekend. "This morning (April 24) it seemed like there was a corn planter in every field," says Schmitt.

"Farmers in southeast Iowa have had some wet springs in recent years, and they've geared up with these newer, bigger corn planters now," he notes. "When they have a window to get into the field and plant, they really know how to take advantage of it."

Soil moisture has been recharged

How about moisture in southeast Iowa? Last summer that area had a drought and farmers were crying for rain. Then last fall many farmers in southeast Iowa were hit with aflatoxin due to drought conditions. Where does that area of the state stand now?

"We are now in much better shape on soil moisture than I could have imagined last November," he says. "The ground never did really freeze up very much this past winter. We got a few shallow freezes but then it thawed right back out. So most of the winter precipitation that would typically run off, actually had an opportunity to soak in. The soil samples I've pulled, and I've pulled some down to 5 ft. here in April, are showing anywhere from 6 inches of soil moisture in the top 5 ft. on up to tile lines running. That means the soils are holding everything they can."

"In our area here soils can hold 10 to 12 inches of plant available moisture in the top 5 ft. when they are full," he notes. "So we are actually in pretty decent shape for this time of year, actually better than average in many of these fields."

What's aflatoxin situation in stored corn?

It's mostly don't ask, don't tell. "One of the issues is there is a lot of inoculum out there, so if we do run into a hot, dry summer again, there is going to be some fairly heavy pressure," he says. "As people empty out bins this spring, some who didn't think they had aflatoxin are getting some loads rejected. It's an issue that has not gone away."

"Last week we had some ISU specialists come down here and meet with us. They  included Charlie Hurburgh, the grain quality expert, and Allison Robertson, a plant pathologist," says Schmitt. "We met with some U.S. Food and Drug Administration people and some representatives of USDA's Risk Management Agency. Some farmers and elevator operators also were at the meeting."

"The group shared some ideas on what could have been done to make the system work better last fall. So, the next time farmers and the grain elevators have to deal with mycotoxins, we will hopefully have a more streamlined system in place and that the people representing the different interests can be all on the same page. We had an excellent discussion and I'm pretty optimistic that we can go forward from a regulatory standpoint  and a policy standpoint, that we can make some improvements over what happened last fall," says Schmitt.