Regional Update: Planting gets underway

April 27, 2021 9:38 AM
Blog Post

It’s been an unusual spring with the cooler and drier conditions. While many would welcome a rain, the warmer conditions mean planting has gotten underway. Iowa State University Extension and Outreach field agronomists share reports on what they are seeing and hearing in their respected regions across the state with field conditions and planting progress.

Northwest Iowa

Joel DeJong (Region 1): “In the NW corner of the state we saw more planting activity take off late last week and continue over the weekend. Most that did not start then are indicating that this is the week to go. Lows dipped down into the teens in some of the area last week, but emerged alfalfa fields appear to have survived with little injury. Fields I have inspected showed some leaf injury, but the center growing points appear healthy. There were a few people that planted some acres early in April. The picture below is from a field planted on April 2, I believe, and dug up for a photo on the morning of April 26. It has obviously been too cold to progress very much.


Corn planted in early April in NW Iowa has germinated, but the cooler temperatures means it hasn't progressed much. Photo courtesy of Joel DeJong.

Moisture levels remain a little marginal, although the fields that have had little tillage seem to have good moisture conditions in the seed zone right now. That isn’t necessarily true for some of the tilled fields. My counterpart Paul Kassel wrote a blog last week about spring soil moisture results from samples taken in “eastern NW Iowa.” I, too, sampled several sites, and the results for the region I serve can be found in the map below. His moisture explanation is valuable for this region also.”

Paul Kassel (Region 2): “There have been of lot of spring seasons in NW Iowa where it was cold, damp and rainy, but this spring is a first with it being cold and dry.  Most farmers held off on corn and soybean planting until late last week (week of April 19).  There has been a lot of field work done since then.  Estimates on planting progress are about 50% of the corn and 10% on the soybean crop has been planted.  The dry conditions are a concern. A survey of subsoil moisture showed that inches of plant available moisture increased by 2 to 5 inches from last fall to 4 to 8 inches this spring. This was the result of about 6 to 8 inches of precipitation since sampling last fall. Subsoil moisture remains especially low at the sampling sites near Spirit Lake and Estherville with 4.1 and 5.4 inches of plant available moisture, respectively. Long term spring averages at these locations are at about 7.5 inches of plant available moisture.”


A UAN application going on a field in Clay County. Photo courtesy of Paul Kassel.

 North Central Iowa

Angie Rieck-Hinz (Region 3): “It is difficult to get a grasp on the percentage of corn and beans planted as some folks planted beans before corn, some folks are done, and some folks waited until this weekend and for the soil temperatures to warm before they started planting. The majority of questions I have received in the past two weeks were about whether or not to start planting, cover crop termination timing with cold temperatures, and nitrogen mineralization this spring. We continue to experience dry and windy conditions that continue to degrade soil moisture conditions.  And, from the looks of the sky on Monday, we experienced a lot of wind erosion.”  

Northeast Iowa

Josh Michel (Region 5): “Dry field conditions and cool soil temperatures have allowed farmers to finish up any remaining fertilizer and herbicide applications. Although scattered light showers have been in the area, very little to no rainfall has been observed over the past two weeks. Isolated areas have received up to 0.1 inch of rain. While this has allowed farmers to cautiously begin planting both corn and soybeans, it has also raised some concerns over limited forage growth in both pastures and alfalfa. Recent overnight temperatures in the low 30’s has resulted in some minor frost damage to low-lying alfalfa fields, but damage appears to be minimal. Recent field calls and questions have included: cover crop termination, winter annual weed identification and management, pasture and alfalfa management, corn rootworm management, soil fertility management, as well as several questions regarding soil moisture conditions and soil temperatures.”


Alfalfa in low-lying areas expereince some minor frost damage last week when temperatures dropped down into the low 30s. Photo courtesy of Josh Michel.

Central Iowa

Meaghan Anderson (Region 7): “With warm temperatures finally here (to stay?!) and a dry forecast, planting is off to the races. I estimated 35% of fields were planted on my drive to work Monday morning and the USDA Crop Progress Report for Apr. 26 estimated 28% of corn and 10% of soybeans were planted in central Iowa, so it looks like we’re in the same ballpark. Fields, especially those with more tillage, are beginning to get very dry on top and farmers will want to carefully monitor seeding depth to be sure seed is in consistent moisture if possible. Early April-planted fields in central Iowa are just beginning to emerge, albeit not very uniformly. Many winter annuals are now bolting and summer annuals like giant ragweed, velvetleaf, and woolly cupgrass are present now in some fields. Calls in the last week were on cover crop termination, soil fertility, pasture management, herbicide programs, and tillage with the dry weather forecast.”


Early-April planted corn just emerging in Central Iowa. Photo courtesy of Meaghan Anderson.

East Central, Southeast, and South Central

Rebecca Vittetoe (Region 8): “With warmer temperatures in sight and soil temperatures on the rise, a few planters started rolling late last week and planting really got underway over the weekend. Many started planting beans first and have now switched to focusing on corn. While the territory I cover is sitting better for soil moisture compared to other parts of the state, there are places were moisture is limited in the top few inches, especially if tillage was done in those fields. Pay attention to soil moisture conditions when planting to make sure you are planting the seed in consistent soil moisture to help with a more even emergence. Pastures and alfalfa/hay fields are looking nice and green, but forage growth is slower this spring. Calls this past week have focused on cover crop termination, burndown herbicide applications, soil temperatures, and soil fertility.” 

Josh Michel (Region 11): “With warming soil temperatures and dry field conditions, tillage equipment and planters can be seen running in almost every field. While light scattered showers delivered up to .1 inch of rain across the region, that wasn’t enough to slow down fertilizer applications, cover crop termination, and burndown herbicide applications for winter annual. Planters have started rolling for both corn and soybeans. Pastures and alfalfa fields are doing well, but limited rainfall over the past few weeks has raised some concerns of decreased amounts of forage growth. Recent field calls and questions have centered on cover crop termination, weed identification and control, soil moisture and temperatures, pasture and alfalfa management, and soil fertility.” 

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

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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...