Joel DeJong

The outlook for spring planting in Iowa is much improved over last year thanks to less rain and snow during the past winter.

Iowa State University Extension field agronomist Joel DeJong, based in Le Mars, says at this time a year ago, farmers in many parts of the state were already dealing with significant challenges. “Last year, we were just getting rid of snow cover and it came with a massive quantity of other water and, of course, all the low-land flooding,” DeJong says. “At this time last year, the flooding was just starting. Our soil moisture is still full. We kind of almost had a wintertime drought so the amount of precipitation we’ve had in this region hasn’t been excessive. We’ve got some surface drying.”

With the soil already saturated, DeJong says there is no room for any additional — or even normal — spring rain. “Top five feet around here will hold about 10 to 11 inches of water,” DeJong says. “Our history is, on November 1st, we could have numbers that are 6 to 8 is normal. I didn’t even pull samples this fall because the math said we were at 11. That’s the gap that we can typically absorb and hold some water in the spring and we don’t have that space this year.”

The 90-day outlook from the National Weather Service calls for above-normal temperatures and above-normal precipitation. DeJong says heavy rain could quickly change the planting outlook. “When you get this much water in the system, it’s hard for me to think that we’re going to be drier-than-normal in the spring,” DeJong says. “My best advice is to make sure everything is ready to go and when we have opportunities, we’re in the field and we’re not waiting to fix equipment we could’ve had done before that window came open.”

DeJong says most farmers got fall fertilizer on their fields but not much tillage was done, so that narrows the spring planting window even more.

 (By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton)