Rick Diericks spring planting 2018

Last year, Rick Diericks of Geneseo had a near perfect day to plant. The Henry County Illinois farmer has plans in mind for the 2019 planting season but for many farmers, the coming spring may be a tough one.

GENESEO, lll. — As soon as it dries out and warms up, Rick Diericks will start work by applying anhydrous ammonia on his northwestern Illinois corn fields. He has less trepidation than many Midwest farmers this year because that was part of his plan.

“I got everything done last fall that I wanted to,” he said, including applying some fall ammonia to his Henry County fields.

That wasn’t the case for many. Derek Porter said only 25 percent of the anhydrous usually applied in his area was done in the fall.

“Not a lot of guys got done,” said Porter, sales manager of Soil Service Inc.

That means there will be big demand for anhydrous this spring, and it will force farmers to look for another nitrogen source. Porter expects more broadcasting, some UAN with burndown herbicides and “a little more sidedress.”

Diericks was lucky enough not to have to make any changes to his spring plans so far. He’s coming off a very good 2018, having won the Asgrow soybean yield challenge with 114.35 bu./acre. He attributes this success to weed control, plant health and weather.

But for many farmers, the coming spring may be a tough one for trying to get everything done on time.

“It (2018) was the slowest harvest since 2009. Now there’s a lot of preliminary work ahead of the season that didn’t get done,” Bryce Anderson, DTN meteorologist, told farmers at the National Farm Machinery Show in Louisville, Kentucky, Feb. 13-14. He didn’t paint a pretty picture for spring.

There are ruts in the field and the time to get that taken care of will be short, said the weather commentator. He forecasts more polar vortex events before the end of winter.

On the positive side, he said, “Once we get crops planted, I think it will be a pretty good year.”

Anderson said it looks like much of the Midwest is on track for another year of above-average yields, but springtime is going to be “a slow affair” with wet, cool conditions.

John Delabar, a southern Ohio farmer, is hoping spring won’t be as wet as fall was for his part of the country.

“The past growing season was too wet to get things done,” he said. He had a few acres of soybeans left to harvest in mid-February. That has made it hard for Delabar to focus on the coming spring.

“There was a mental block there,” he said.

Because he is a no-till farmer, it wasn’t tillage he worried about last fall, but cover crops. He generally tries to get 60 percent of corn and soybean acreage in cover crops, and he barely got any this year.

On some of the land he rents, he actually had to pay a financial penalty to the landowner because he didn’t get the cover crop planted.

Connor Headings, a Plain City, Ohio, farmer, said it was a tough harvest in his area as well.

The challenging harvest combined with low commodity prices has him watching his expenses even more. He tries to get “full life” out of every investment.

Some of the other consequences of the wet fall aren’t know yet, he said. They planted some cover crops after beans but didn’t get much in after corn.

The wet fall also interfered with plans regarding tillage, said Dick Fleissner, CNH Industries segment marketing manager for parts in North America.

“Due to the weather last fall, harvest in Illinois and Iowa was late, and as a result, winter was upon us before farmers finished their primary tillage and seed bed preparation,” he said.

After the combines leave the fields, farmers start working in a portion of the residue, do vertical tillage or address compaction issues. But many didn’t get that done last fall and are hoping for some warm, dry weather this spring to do the primary tillage and seed preparation.

Whether farmers have no-till operations, weed issues, compaction or other focuses in the spring, Fleissner expects it will be an extra busy time for almost everyone this year because of the harvest delay and short planting window in a spring that weather forecasters are saying may be cool and wet.

“There is a lot of work to be done in a short period of time,” he said.

Phyllis Coulter is Northern Illinois field editor, writing for Illinois Farmer Today, Iowa Farmer Today and Missouri Farmer Today.