Iowa’s secretary of agriculture says some Iowa farmers face tough decisions because of the wet weather. Secretary Bill Northey says some farmers may have to shift to seeding soybeans in fields they had planned to plant with corn this year.
“We still have 15 percent of the corn to be planted out there for the first time and, really, almost none of that’s going to get planted ’til June. I’m sure some of it may not even get planted just because some rivers are out of their banks. In other places it’s going to be hard to get planted,” Northey says. “We have 60 percent of the soybeans yet to be planted and normally that should be close to being done or at least within sight of being done and now we’re hardly within sight of getting that in the ground.”
In addition, farmers may have to replant fields that have been underwater for a while.
“Way back in 1993 we had issues where the crop actually, essentially drowned out just in really soggy soil. Normally that doesn’t happen in Iowa. We get some dry weather between our rains and the crop may struggle through some saturated soils, but it grows,” Northey says. “We’re at a point where we have to worry a little bit about making sure that soil dries out between these rains so that bean plant and that corn plant can stay healthy and keep growing.”
Farmers are looking for warm, windy days in the forecast.
“We don’t need 40 mile an hour winds, but we certainly could use 15-20 mile an hour breezes on those warm days to be able to get some of that drying done,” Northey says.
Seed treatments can help young plants survive wet conditions.
“Soybeans have different diseases, pythium and phytophthora — words farmers learn to pronounce after two years — and those are diseases that come out when you have warm, wet soils and can cause fungus on these beans and can kill them,” Northey says. “We now use seed treatments that help them get through that, so those are all good things, but they don’t fix being underwater and they don’t fix being in saturated soils for two weeks.”
Northey says June 10th is a sort of cut-off date for planting corn in Iowa and farmers can plant soybeans as late as the first week of July, but the shortened growing season means a shorter crop.
“Even some of that stuff with water on top of it now has time to dry out, if the weather would change and we could get beans in there — have a shot,” Northey says. “All this being later, though, than normal means we’re likely to see lower yields than what we would have gotten had we got stuff planted on time and I think everybody realizes that.”
Northey farms near Spirit Lake and he still has some planting to do in his fields. According to the Iowa Farm Bureau, planting progress is slower than it was in the dramatic flood year of 1993.