The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Local News

September 10, 2013

Varying weather keeps farmers guessing

DEWITT — Clinton County farmers were happy when the rains began last April — the fields needed it to replenish the moisture lost in the drought of 2012.

But then the rains kept coming, until they reached a total of 7.55 inches compared to a normal of 2.90 for April, according to area Weather Observer Jim Blaess. Fields turned to mud and farmers couldn’t plant their 2013 crops.

Instead of the usual beginning of planting around mid-April, farmers had planted about 2 percent of their crops by April 28, according to USDA data.

Finally the wheels began to turn, and Roger Elmore, Iowa State University Professor of Agronomy, said farmers had planted about 1.5 million acres per field work day during the week of May 13.

“That was probably the most we’ve ever accomplished in one field work day,” Elmore said.

But much of the seed fell into cold soil, which Elmore said sometimes reduced corn plant height and increased the variability of plant heights cross a field, which may present farmers with “start and stop” harvesting.

Virgil Schmitt, extension field agronomist for Clinton County, said the effect of the current hot and dry weather often depends on the type of soil the crop is planted in.

“On coarse textured soil, the lack of moisture and the heat has caused both corn and soybeans to deteriorate quite quickly,” Schmitt said. “Where the soils are finer textured and not compacted, the crops are hanging in there pretty well. “Hopefully cooler weather in the near future will minimize losses due to moisture stress.”

Even with adequate soil moisture, though, heat rushes corn toward maturity, Schmitt said.

“That gives the plant less time to fill the kernels, which means the kernels will weigh less, resulting in a lower yield,” Schmitt said. “Soybeans stressed this time of year also produce smaller seed.”

Another effect of the hot, dry weather is that cattle feeders started chopping corn plants for silage feed two weeks earlier than usual because the plants were maturing too fast.

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