With planting ‘almost complete,’ corn now ahead of average

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The rush to plant after early delays this year means corn farmers have gone from at least two weeks behind schedule to three days ahead, according to a new U.S. Department of Agriculture report on Monday.

That report estimated that 98% of Iowa’s corn crop and 94% of soybeans have been planted, which compared to the five-year average is three days and six days ahead, respectively.

“Right now our timelines are condensed,” said Meaghan Anderson, a field agronomist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who monitors nine counties in central Iowa. “Usually we plant over a several-week period. This year, it happened over 10 days. Now that the crops are up out of the ground, people are out scouting.”

That means farmers’ concerns are becoming more diversified than trying to get seed into the ground. They’re determining when to apply their first herbicides, checking for pests and contending with varying weather conditions.

Most recently, that includes pockets of central and west-central Iowa that have had inches of rain in the past day. Rainfall of 4.5 inches was reported Monday morning in Madrid, according to the National Weather Service. Floodwater was flowing over roadways in parts of Guthrie and Boone counties Sunday night.

Mike Witt, an Extension field agronomist who monitors west-central Iowa, said there could be “significant dieback” in low-lying fields where young crops are fully submerged in water for more than a day.

While parts of his region were able to plant significantly earlier than other areas of the state — increasing the likelihood of optimal yields — the weather during the growing season is expected to be drier than normal.

“We’re ahead of the game compared with some people, but we’ll see how it all turns out,” Witt said.

In a weekly report about farmers’ progress, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig noted severe storms damaged young crops last week.

“Strong to severe thunderstorms on Memorial Day left scattered reports of hail and straight-line wind damage to some emerging crops in western Iowa,” Naig said.

The most recent U.S. Drought Monitor report shows Iowa is faring its best since June 2020, when the drought conditions that are still lingering first began after months of ample rainfall.

As of Thursday, nearly three-quarters of the state was sufficiently wet to avoid designations of abnormally dry or drought. About 9% of the state was in moderate or severe drought, focused near Sioux City.

Longer-term climate predictions say it will get drier this summer, and it’s likely for drought conditions to develop across much of Iowa, with the exception of far eastern parts of the state, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

About 87% of the state’s corn has emerged from the soil as of Sunday, which is one day behind the five-year average.

Originally published on iowacapitaldispatch.com, part of the TownNews Content Exchange.