Spring Forward: How Last Year’s Wet Fall Could Affect Planting Preparation
March 7, 2019
Due in large part to warm, dry conditions, last year’s harvest began earlier than normal in many areas of the Corn Belt, with some farmers harvesting in the beginning of September. However, for many growers, harvest also continued later than expected with saturated fields and sustained wet weather slowing progress to a crawl. As an Iowa farmer, I experienced these events up close and personal on my own operation, and there were some anxious moments as we scrambled to get our corn and beans out of the fields before they were damaged by the unpredictable weather conditions.
When harvest was finally completed, our fall tillage and nitrogen plans were stalled by the wet autumn weather and put on hold until spring by the extreme winter temperatures that impacted our region as well as much of the Midwest. It’s a reminder that in this business, there are a lot of things outside of your control, so you make the best decisions you can with what you have to work with. If damp soil and cold temps have kept you out of your fields and impacted your fall fertility and tillage plans, you may need to adapt your nitrogen and planting strategies as you head into spring.
Insights Gained From The Field
In addition to the experiences I’ve gathered from years on the family farm, I’ve also gained insights from my work in designing field trials with The Climate Corporation. Based on these learnings, here are a some things to consider to help you have a productive planting season.
- Take a soil sample – When fields are saturated with heavy rainfall, nitrogen becomes a major concern. Soil sampling can help you gain a better understanding of input levels in your fields and can help you adjust your spring schedule. Be sure to upload soil samples into your FieldView account to help you make confident decisions. The Climate Corporation partners with proven soil sampling resources that can help you in this process.
- Adjust your spring tillage practices – Although you may have been unable to get in the fields last fall, consider alternative options. If you have some warm days in the early spring, go ahead and get your tillage in like normal. However this may be an opportunity to try a reduced tillage practice, strip till, or no-till corn in the right fields. Think through which fields in your operation may be the best candidates for a change in tillage practices. In extreme cases, you may even flip some fields from corn to soybeans.
- Rethink your fertility plan – If you weren’t able to keep up with your fall fertility plan, carefully monitor your soil conditions. You may plan to apply anhydrous before planting, but if that’s not possible be prepared to switch products and apply urea ammonium nitrate (UAN) or an early sidedress to hit your fertility targets.
- Review your seed selection – If it’s a cold spring and seed beds are cooler than normal, or if you are no-tilling, prioritize your products with strong emergence early in the season. Consider running germination tests on some of your seeds to help supplement hybrid emergence scores. If typical spring conditions come extremely late, consult with your seed dealer to see if it’s possible to tweak your products to earlier maturities.
- Be a weather watcher – I probably didn’t even need to include this one, but it’s important to stay up to date with the forecast as planting approaches, as even a slight change in weather conditions – one way or another – can alter your approach.
With all of the variables in farming – the weather, soil conditions, and fluctuating schedules – it’s important to stay flexible, and FieldView can help you regain important elements of control. Good luck as you prepare to get into the fields for planting and here’s to the best possible harvest next fall.
If you have any questions, contact your Climate dealer, the Climate Support Team at (888) 924-7475 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
About The Author
Nick Helland is a seventh-generation Iowa farmer on a family farm that was established in 1861. He is also a field research lead, directing studies that help to develop better technologies and agronomic recommendations for farmers. For more of Nick’s insights, you can find him on Twitter (@Nickhelland).