Farming in Grundy County near the town of Dike in eastern Iowa, Dan Petersen and his father, Merlyn, were feeling good on a beautiful day last week. They had finished planting commercial corn April 30, and their last field of seed corn was being planted May 10 when Wallaces Farmer visited.
On May 14, Dan reported: “We only have 200 acres of soybeans left to plant. The forecast is favorable the rest of this week. Most farmers in our county will finish planting beans this week if we get good weather.”
He added, “All of our commercial corn is emerged and looks good. We’re very happy with emergence. Our ground never crusted this spring, and it worked well. Corn germinated and came up in a nice, even stand. We got the heat units needed, and it’s ready to grow.”
Corn 65% planted, soybeans 33%
Overall, the state’s 2018 corn crop is 65% planted, up from 40% last week, but still five points behind the five-year average, according to USDA’s latest weekly survey conducted as of May 13. Iowa soybean growers have 33% of the expected crop in the ground, compared to a 28% average.
The pace of corn planting in Iowa varies widely, from 91% complete in the southeast part of the state to only 26% in north-central Iowa.
Nationwide, USDA rated corn planting at 62% complete as of May 13, versus a 63% average. USDA pegged 28% of the nation’s corn crop as emerged versus 27% for a five-year average. The weekly USDA survey showed 35% of the U.S. soybean crop planted versus a 26% five-year average.
Big spread in Iowa planting progress
“Farmers continue to make planting progress as conditions allow, and now 65% of corn and 33% of soybeans have been planted,” notes Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig. “But progress varies greatly across the state. Northwest and north-central Iowa are lagging well behind average due to wet conditions. North-central Iowa has been the most impacted and has just 26% of its corn and 3% of soybeans planted. On the other end of the spectrum, 91% of corn and 65% of soybeans have been planted in southeast Iowa, and they would welcome additional precipitation.”
The complete weekly Iowa Crop Progress and Weather Report is on the Iowa Department of Ag and Land Stewardship’s website iowaagriculture.gov or on USDA’s site, nass.usda.gov/ia. The report summary follows.
Iowa farmers were held to 3.8 days suitable for fieldwork after storms left measurable rainfall across much of the state during the week ending May 13, according to USDA’s National Ag Statistics Service.
Topsoil moisture rated 2% very short, 6% short, 69% adequate and 23% surplus. Subsoil moisture is 4% very short, 10% short, 69% adequate and 17% surplus. Intermittent rain interrupted fieldwork and planting activities in parts of Iowa, but recent rains have failed to relieve dry soil conditions in the southern one-third of the state.
Statewide 26% of corn emerged
Iowa growers have planted 65% of the expected corn crop, four days ahead of last year. While the southern two-thirds of the state already has 79% or more of the corn crop planted, the north-central region has almost three-quarters of the crop left to be planted. Statewide, 26% of the Iowa corn crop had emerged as of May 13.
Soybean growers have 33% of the expected 2018 Iowa crop in the ground, led by farmers in southeast Iowa who have planted almost two-thirds of their expected crop. Iowa had 5% of the crop emerged as of May 13. Iowa’s oat crop is 92% planted, one week behind last year and three days behind the five-year average. The survey shows 61% of the oat crop has emerged, six days behind last year, and five days behind average.
Hay, pasture conditions perk up
Rain and warm temperatures have benefited hay acreage and pasture statewide. The first hay condition rating of the season (as of May 13) was 4% very poor, 5% poor, 34% fair, 45% good and 12% excellent.
Pasture condition rated 49% good-to-excellent, an increase of 9 percentage points from the previous week. Cattle and sheep are grazing on permanent pastures in many areas and farmers are waiting for drier conditions to take their first cutting of hay for the year.
According to Michael Timlin, regional climatologist for the Midwestern Regional Climate Center, Iowa saw a strong difference from north to south in both temperature and precipitation during the week ending May 13. In the northern third of the state, temperatures were near normal while precipitation was two to three times normal. In the southern two-thirds of Iowa, temperatures were above normal, by up to 5 to 7 degrees F near the Missouri border, with rainfall ranging from near normal to well below normal. Some parts of central Iowa had less than 25% of normal for the week.
Rain totals for the seven-day period ranged from less than 0.1 inch in some central Iowa locations to more than 2.5 inches in northern Iowa locations. Lake Park reported 3.13 inches, the highest total for the week. More than a dozen stations across northern Iowa had four or five days with at least 0.1 inch of precipitation. Severe weather was limited to a 1.75-inch-diameter hail report from Dickinson County on May 8 and a couple of 1-inch hail reports on May 8, 11 and 13 along with a high wind report on May 13.
Moderate drought for southern Iowa
Temperatures remained above 40 degrees with just a few exceptions last week. The coldest reading came from the northeast part of the state, 38 degrees at Cresco on the May 12. Nearly all stations across the state reached the 80s during the week with the warmest reading of 87 degrees on May 9 at two locations, Clarinda and Shenandoah. Soil temperatures remained in the 50s and 60s throughout the week. Moderate drought continued for less than 15% of the state, located along the southern border, with about 40% of the state either in drought or considered abnormally dry.