Spring planting 'ahead of last year'

Monday, May 5, 2014
ISU Extension and Outreach agronomist Paul Kassel expressed optimism about this year's planting season in northwest Iowa, but cited low soil moisture as a concern. (Photo by Kate Padilla)

With a few days of reprieve after last week's dreary weather, farmers are out in the fields planting before the next bout of rain comes along.

"They're talking some rain tomorrow night," said Paul Kassel, ISU Extension and Outreach agronomist. "Possibly a bigger storm later this week. So you'll see a lot of field work Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday."

Despite the recent wet weather, Kassel noted this year's planting season is "way ahead of last year."

"Last year, we were just getting in the field," he said. "We'd be in for a few days, then we'd be out again."

The biggest concern, he said, is the lower soil moisture.

"The rain recently alleviated some of those concerns, and we still have some time," Kassel said. "A lot of people are done with corn, and beans will be going in over the next few days."

A rough guideline, Kassel said, is to have corn planted by May 10, though growing seasons vary from year to year and within regions across the state and country.

"We're on a line between north-central Iowa and northwest Iowa," he said. "One has a shorter growing season and one has a longer growing season. But no one really knows what the growing season will be."

In addition, the dry late-summer, late-fall and winter last year is a concern.

"We had some nice rain in April, and we typically see about 8 inches of rainfall between May and June," he said. "March and April were drier than normal, and the ground was still frozen until mid-April. But, with that in mind, the moisture demand is very low this time of year, and will be low until we get to mid-June."

Kassel said this year's spring is "way better than a year ago," though "not as nice as two years ago."

"I'm pretty optimistic based on local conditions," he said. "Some parts of the state are still wet, and haven't done any fieldwork yet. And other areas are still much drier than us."

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