Regional Crop Update: April 21 - May 5, 2020

May 5, 2020 1:49 PM
Blog Post

Last week provided another big window for planting and other field activities across the state. According to the May 4th USDA Crop Progress Report, approximately 78% of the corn has been planted and 46% of the soybeans have been planted across the state. Check out what ISU Extension field agronomists are seeing and hearing around the state for field conditions and planting progress.   

Northwest Iowa

Joel DeJong (Region 1): “The past couple of weeks have allowed for almost non-stop planting in the NW corner of Iowa. It is hard to find a cornfield that has not been planted, and it appears to me that three quarters of the beans or more have been planted. My observations from a motorcycle tour on Sunday (5/3/2020) gave me an impression that planting here is ahead of what the May 4th USDA Crop Progress Report said. The local weather station has reported three rains since the Easter weekend snow much of this corner of the state got – and the biggest of those three precipitation events was tenth of an inch. Surface conditions are very dry as of Monday (5/4/2020) morning, but maybe a significant rain will fall this week? I did have a call from a producer who had tilled the ground and didn’t plant beans very deep. After one week there has been no evidence of growth. I believe that the number of no-tilled soybean acres has increased this year, and hopefully that will help reduce the “in dry dirt” calls. Subsoil moisture remains good, but we need to have some moisture in the surface layer to get roots systems developed into the zone where moisture is available and to help herbicides control emerging weeds. Overall, about the earliest date I can remember having this much crop planted.”

Corn just emerging in a NW Iowa field. Photo courtesy of Joel DeJong.

Paul Kassel (Region 2): “Fieldwork started in earnest on April 20 and has continued almost unchecked until May 4.  Widespread rainfall on May 5 brought this unbelievable streak of good weather to an end. Many farmers comment that they cannot remember a spring with this rapid pace of fieldwork progress. There are farming operations that completed both corn and soybean planting in April. Current estimates on overall planting progress indicate that corn planting is almost complete and soybean planting is 65% complete. Corn and soybean planting were not only competed at a rapid pace but also under some of the best field conditions we have seen for a while.”   

Corn emerges in Clay County 10 days after planting and 105 GDDs. Photo courtesy of Paul Kassel.

Northeast Iowa

Terry Basol (Region 4): “Planting conditions were very good here in NE Iowa this past week. Pretty much all of the corn is planted in my area, and farmers have gotten a good start on soybean planting. The May 4th USDA Crop Progress Report has NE Iowa having 94% and NC Iowa having 69% of corn planted. On the soybean side, NC Iowa is at 66% planted and NE Iowa is at 44% planted. Overall, small grains and hay are looking good for the area. We could use a good shot of moisture (1-2” of rain) to help with the dry topsoil conditions. This would definitely help get the corn and soybeans off to a good start and would help with the activation of soil-applied herbicides.”

With corn planting wrapping up, farmers are getting a good start on soybean planting in NE Iowa. Photo courtesy of Terry Bassol.

Southwest and West Central

Mike Witt (Region 6): “Planting progress in WC Iowa has continued at a feverish pace this last week. USDA estimates currently have WC Iowa at 82% of corn planted and 51% of soybeans as of May 3rd. This is up 30-40% of the planted acres compared to a year ago at this time. Some of the earliest planted corn is beginning to emerge. Soil moisture is a topic of discussion. While subsurface moisture is still adequate, topsoil moisture is more limited. With opportunities for rain this week things should hopefully be improved. Lack of topsoil moisture can prevent or limit herbicide activation, reduce the incorporation of surface applied nutrients, and potentially delay emergence. These are things to scout and watch for in your fields. Pastures have really started to green up across the region and are in pretty good shape from the winter with only sporadic problems reported. Overall crop growth will be noticed this week across the region as plants start to emerge, and this is a good time to get out and start scouting fields.”

Pastures have greened-up quite nicely in WC Iowa. Photo courtesy of Mike Witt.

Central Iowa

Meaghan Anderson (Region 7): “After another fantastic week for fieldwork, the USDA Crop Progress Report shows that we have 76% of corn and 47% of soybeans planted in central Iowa. By the middle of last week, some fields were dry enough at the surface that seeds were planted into dry soil at 1.5 or even 2 inches. The rainfall that came yesterday and today (5/4/2020 and 5/5/2020) is very welcome in central Iowa, even if it brings some colder temperatures with it. The earliest planted crops are emerging now, so we will want to be monitoring these fields for evenness of emergence and spacing between plants, as well as taking stand counts. This is especially important for crops that have emerged before we get cold temperatures later this week; check fields early next week for frosted tissue and monitor them for regrowth over the next week or so. Shawn Conley wrote a nice article that describes more about how cold we really need to get to affect soybeans. Calls this week were on pasture management, herbicides and dry soils, weed identification, and seeding rate issues.”

The lack of topsoil moisture created challenges for some to get soybeans planted into moisture. Photo courtesy of Meaghan Anderson.

East Central, Southeast, and South Central

Rebecca Vittetoe (Region 8): “This past week was another big week for planting progress across EC Iowa, with many farmers around the area wrapping up with planting. While it’s been nice to have this big planting window, we could use some rain to help moisten the upper soil profile to help with germination and emergence as well as to activate pre-emergence herbicides applied. Crops planted two weeks ago (around 4/20/2020) are just starting to emerge. Common questions this past week have been on weed identification (common weed ID’s this past week have included wild garlic, wild parsnip, chickweed, and yellow rocket), planting issues and considerations, pasture management, and the drier conditions.”

Soybeans planted on 4/21/2020 at the Southeast Research and Demonstration Farm near Crawfordsville have started to emerge. Photo courtesy of Cody Schneider.

Virgil Schmitt (Region 9): “Rainfall in the last week has generally been light with less than half an inch of precipitation reported nearly everywhere in the counties I cover. The weather allowed a great deal of field activity this past week, from tillage and fertilizing to spraying and planting. However, many people are indicating that they would like to see a nice rain. I estimate that about 75% of the corn is planted, with a higher percent planted roughly south of Highway 30 and a lower percent planted roughly north of Highway 30. For soybeans, I estimate that about 35% are planted, again with a higher percent planted roughly south of Highway 30 and a lower percent planted roughly north of Highway 30. Bluegrass and downey brome are headed out and yellow rocket is blooming. Questions last week tended to focus on planting issues as well as herbicide and nitrogen application issues.”

Rainfall totals over the last week as of 5/4/2020. Source:

Josh Michel (Region 11): “Fieldwork has been ongoing as farmers have taken advantage of ideal planting conditions throughout the region. While some areas did receive 0.10 to .25 inches of rain over the past week, that rainfall only briefly paused fieldwork. Approximately 60% of corn and 30% of soybeans acres have been planted as well as 90% of the oat acres have been planted in this part of the state. Pastures and alfalfa are generally looking good, but many are in need of rain to keep them growing. For those with alfalfa, start scouting for alfalfa weevils as they should be active now. The majority of questions this past week have been on weed identification, weed management, cover crop termination, and new alfalfa seedings.”

Check out the map below to find your local ISU Extension field agronomist and find their contact information here!


Rebecca Vittetoe Field Agronomist in EC Iowa

Rebecca Vittetoe is an extension field agronomist in east central Iowa. Educational programs are available for farmers, agribusiness, pesticide applicators, and certified crop advisors.

Areas of expertise include agronomy, field crop production and management of corn, soybeans, and...