Farmers plant nearly half of Iowa’s corn in past week

By: - May 16, 2022 5:01 pm

About 8% of the state’s corn crop has emerged, including in this western Iowa field. (Photo by Jared Strong/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

A hot and dry week finally gave Iowa farmers their best chance yet to plant corn this year, and they put about 43% of the crop seed in the ground in that time, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture report on Monday.

Corn planting was about two weeks behind the five-year average a week ago. Now it’s about nine days behind. Some farmers have been working day and night.

“They’re pushing really hard to get done,” Angie Rieck-Hinz, a field agronomist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who monitors eight counties in north-central Iowa. “We’ve made a substantial improvement in planting progress this last week.”

That region of the state made the biggest gains, going from 7% of the corn planted last week to 68% this week.

Statewide, that percentage jumped from 14% last week to 57% this week.

Weather improves at pivotal time

This is a crucial time for corn farmers. Yield potentials begin to diminish when planting occurs after the middle of May and fall off precipitously in June, according to ISU research.

Planting had been delayed for weeks by cold and wet weather. The wet soil can be difficult for tractors to navigate, and the cold diminished the likelihood that the seed would sprout quickly. Corn seed needs soil temperatures of about 50 degrees to germinate.

That trend reversed last week, when “anomalously hot conditions blanketed much of the central United States,” State Climatologist Justin Glisan said in his weekly weather report.

The state’s temperatures averaged 13 degrees above normal, with high temperatures that reached into the 80s and 90s. Typical highs this time of year are in the low 70s, according to the National Weather Service.

Those higher temperatures pushed average soil temperatures into the 60s, recent ISU data show.

Scattered thunderstorms throughout the week were minimally disruptive to farmers, who had a total of about 5.2 days that were suitable for fieldwork, the USDA report said.

A storm with strong, straight-line winds of up to 80 mph struck the far northwest corner of the state on Thursday and damaged the roofs of several livestock facilities, said Joel DeJong, an ISU Extension field agronomist in that area, but it did not significantly impact planting.

“We’re making really good progress,” he said. “By the end of the week, we’re going to have a vast majority of the crop in the ground in northwest Iowa.”

Iowa farmers plant about 13 million acres of corn each year, and they can plant at a pace of more than 1 million acres per day when the conditions are right, said Mark Licht, an ISU Extension cropping systems specialist.

Soybean planting also accelerated in the past week, the USDA report said. About a third of the soybean crop was in the ground as of Sunday, up from 7% the week before. That work is about a week behind the five-year average.

“As we look ahead, weather outlooks show promise in keeping planters rolling and farmers busy in the fields,” Mike Naig, the state’s secretary of agriculture, said in a press release about the progress.

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Jared Strong
Jared Strong

Senior reporter Jared Strong has written about Iowans and the important issues that affect them for more than 15 years, previously for the Carroll Times Herald and the Des Moines Register. His investigative work exposing police misconduct has notched several state and national awards. He is a longtime trustee of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council, which fights for open records and open government. He is a lifelong Iowan and has lived mostly in rural western parts of the state.

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