What a weird year for getting crops planted

By Harold Watters, Ohio State University Extension agronomist

The sun is almost shining at my office as I write this edition of C.O.R.N to go. That hasn’t happened much in the past eight or 10 weeks, or heck even since last October. I did finally get four days in the field last week. As I look at my rain gage numbers in Union County since April 1, I see 38 days with measurable precipitation out of 73 total days. With a total 12.5 inches of rain – it actually doesn’t sound that terrible but it’s the fact that there was so little drying in between the showers. By comparison in 2011, another rain delayed start to the season I had 16.6 inches of rain by this date. My rainfall records are available on the CoCoRaHS network, I also encourage you to get a gage and participate too: www.cocorahs.org/.

Regarding 2011, the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s Annual Report crop planting progress for 2011 for corn was at 25% at the end of May and 89% on June 10. For 2019, we are 50% planted on corn as of June 9. But while we do not have the high rain amounts of 2011, we do have these persistent rains that hit us every other day. I have heard some say that usually we have three days each week across the corn belt to plant — we just haven’t had those days this year.

Soybean planting progress for 2011 by June 10 was 69% and for 2019 it was 32% on June 9. So are we in a disaster? I am always optimistic but I do like to whine I will admit. I look for data, historical information, guidance, etc. on what situation we are likely to be in.

  • First, I highly recommend you subscribe to the farmdocDaily newsletter. They took a look at yeields in 2011 to offer some perspective on that challenging planning season (Schnitkey, G. “2011 Corn and Soybean Yields in Perspective.” farmdoc daily (2):71, Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, April 17, 2012). They said: “The eastern corn-belt had a difficult planting period in 2011. However, summer weather was conducive to good yields in Ohio and Michigan. These above average yields in Ohio and Michigan again confirm the importance of mid-summer weather in determining yields.” The weather women/men say we can expect continued rain the rest of the season — so if we get planted, those mid-summer rains will help us .
  • What about grain drying? This is from the book Modern Corn and Soybean Production: “Corn planted May 1 was 3 to 4 percentage points lower in moisture at the usual harvest date than corn planted May 15 and over 10 percentage points lower than corn planted June 1.” We will need propane this fall.
  • In 2017 we had delays and replanting for our crops — not quite like this year, but I had several folks ask me then what it would take to get soybeans growing again and recover some lost yield. I conducted a trial with several of their suggested treatments: add nitrogen – as urea at V5 and R5; add a fungicide or insecticide to relieve the stress of pests; spray Cobra to cause some stress so the plant could react and compensate; and spray foliar fertilizers to supply micros. Nothing helped to improve the yield. I did average 65 bushels per acre though. Let’s hope we can do that again.
  • Corn got off to a very slow start this year but soybeans may have an even rougher way to go as we finish the planting season. I am reminded of Purdue University’s Bob Nielsen and his corn article of several years ago about the ugly duckling — ugly corn can turn into a lovely crop. This applies even more so to soybeans. Time after time I talk growers out of replanting a thin soybean field, to be told later how great the crop looks.

We have had more than several calls this spring about discolored corn and soybean plants. Often the grower suspects a micronutrient deficiency but more often the problem may be related to pH and nutrient availability, as a result of limited root growth due to overly wet soil, or perhaps due to soil compaction.

Get a copy of the new Corn, Soybean, Wheat and Forages Field Guide, Bulletin 827, from your local Extension office. We published this major update in late January in cooperation with PennState this year. There are pictures, tables, recommendations to manage weeds, insects, diseases and even nutrient deficiencies. Each crop has pictures of possible nutrient deficiencies — maybe you are short on something so look here first.

Before you buy that “special sauce” to fix all your problems, do remember that most soils of Ohio supply adequate levels of the necessary plant nutrients. If you suspect a deficiency, take samples from a “good” area nearby and from the “bad” area of concern. Do this for both the soil and tissue. Send to your favorite lab for comparison.

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One comment

  1. Delayed planting means delayed spraying. My grapevines were hammered pretty good by 2,4-D drift in 2011. Seeing some early signs now, but need to wait to see how much. Need to be careful spraying herbicides that easily drift or translocate. Check the Fieldwatch site to see who might be economically affected. With perennial crops it can amount to many years of losses.

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