Bob Dashner applies anhydrous

Bob Dashner applies anhydrous on some ground he farms with his father Chris in western Mills County, Iowa. A year ago, this field was under several feet of water. 

PACIFIC JUNCTION, Iowa — Bob Dashner has never had more fun applying anhydrous than he is having this year.

“It’s a lot better than what we were dealing with a year ago,” he says.

Just over a year ago, Dashner and most farmers in western Mills and Fremont counties were watching the Missouri River blanket their southwest Iowa farms.

The historic flood left millions of acres barren in the Midwest.

But after some fall fieldwork, Dashner is back at it and approaching 2020 as a normal growing season.

“We had about 850 acres we were unable to plant,” he says. “That’s about half of our acres. We still have some wet spots, but those are issues we normally have.”

Dashner farms with his father Chris near here in Mills County. They generally stick to a 50-50 corn/soybean rotation, but that has been adjusted some due to ground conditions.

“We have holes that have filled up, and we have new holes out there,” he says. “We’ve changed up the rotation a bit this year, but we’re still pretty close to what we normally have.”

Dashner says he planted some cover crops last fall to help settle the soil. Those crops included winter peas, turnips and rye.

“We did it mostly to activate the soil and get it going again,” he said. “Most of it was winter kill, but the rye did come back and looked pretty good.”

The USDA released its Prospective Plantings report March 31. The agency estimated 97 million acres will be planted to corn, up 8% from last year’s numbers. U.S. soybean acres are estimated at 83.5 million, up 10% from 2019

“We’re basically getting back what we lost to flooding and prevent plant last year,” says Chad Hart, Extension grain marketing economist with Iowa State University.

In Iowa, farmers are expected to plant 14.1 million acres of corn, up 4.4% from last year, with 9.3 million acres of beans planted (up 1.1%).

Hart says there were few surprises in the numbers. He says these numbers were tallied before the recent pullback in the ethanol market.

He says the USDA survey was taken from late-February until about mid-March.

“When they did this, it shows they were hoping things would eventually return to normal,” Hart says. “But it won’t be normal, and it’s going to be interesting to see how the COVID-19 pandemic affects it all.”

He says he’s not expecting major changes though, and volatility in the grain markets also will likely not alter anyone’s planting intentions.

Dashner and his fellow river bottom farmers have dealt with flooding in the past, including a major flood in 2011.

He says there are always adjustments to be made. Weed pressure, for example, could be a bigger problem this year. Isolated flooding could still occur as mountain snow melt works its way downstream.

But in the meantime, the dust continues to fly as Dashner and others prepare for planting.

“We have to keep an eye on things, but right now we’re moving along like we normally do,” he says. “I think we’re all ready for a more normal year.”

Jeff DeYoung is livestock editor for Iowa Farmer Today, Missouri Farmer Today and Illinois Farmer Today.