High temperatures in the 70s and 80s warmed much of Iowa in the past week and the unseasonable weather is prompting farmers to consider hitting the fields early to plant this year’s crops.

Angie Rieck-Hinz, an Iowa State University Extension field agronomist based in Clarion, says planting conditions are approaching ideal. “It’s warm, the soil temperatures are trending upwards and the soil is drying out with these winds,” Rieck-Hinz says. “The soil is fairly dry anyway because we haven’t had a lot of recent moisture so people are itchy to get in and start planting, whether it’s corn or soybeans.”

One of the big concerns for planting now, for one crop in particular, is soil temperature, which is usually measured four inches below the surface.

“We want to make sure our soil temperatures for corn planting are at least 50 degrees and trending up,” she says. “Last week, they were making some pretty big swings back and forth because we got warm and then we cooled off, and then we got warm and we cooled off. Obviously, over the weekend, it was really nice so our soil temperatures have rebounded.”

In addition to soil temps, a late-season frost is another big worry. “We just need to weigh some pros and cons, basically some risks, to say what’s our risk management if we get a frost,” Rieck-Hinz says. “You remember May 5th last year? We got a nice, killing frost. We had some soybeans that were in the ground and up. We dinged soybeans pretty good in some places last year because of that May 5th frost.”

The forecast for the rest of the week promises several chances of showers and mild temperatures for much of Iowa.

(By Pat Powers, KQWC, Webster City)