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Growing season starts slow, but soils get needed recharge

IA crop update June field

The Iowa crop got off to a good, if slower, start with some planting delays. Farmers are waiting for warmer weather to see the crop shoot higher this summer.

After the springs of 2020 and 2021 allowed for early planting, 2022’s season started a little later. Combined with cooler temperatures, that meant a slower-growing crop to open the season.

“I don’t think it’s as good as we had in 2021, but at this point last year we were getting fairly dry,” said Jeff Jorgenson, a farmer in southwest Iowa’s Fremont County. “We have the moisture this time around.”

Jorgenson said his soybean crop is moving a little slower than he would like, considering the rapidly approaching dicamba cutoff date. While applications will be made, the effectiveness of any application too early may be seen at harvest.

“You are either going to get it on or your aren’t,” Jorgenson said. “The biggest thing is how good of a control we have. It’s not the growth I was hoping for to get these beans canopied. We are looking at spraying right ahead of that (June 20) deadline, so that might be a little suspect. We could have the potential of some ugly fields late in the year.”

A wetter spring has helped relieve drought pressure across the state, said Mark Storr, BASF technical agronomist. The only drought conditions reported in Iowa come in 10 counties located in west central and northwest Iowa. Other areas in east central Iowa are being reported as abnormally dry, but it is a vast improvement over the drought maps in past years.

“That’s a plus,” Storr said. “The corn crop is going to need to tap into that subsoil moisture. We can’t keep getting lucky. The last two years people have been amazed what we’ve been able to get, but we had tapped it dry.”

However, additional moisture sometimes comes in the form of severe weather. Early June storms in the western Corn Belt left some fields in Nebraska and western Iowa needing replant. Gentry Sorenson, Iowa State Extension field agronomist in northwest Iowa, said many were able to avoid hail damage, but there will definitely be some farmers needing to replant.

“The Red Oak area and up by Atlantic, there were some areas that got hit,” he said. “It was pretty localized, but if it’s yours, it’s rough. The windblown soil sheared soybeans off below the growing point, so they were gone.”

The later spring may have also reduced weed competition with the crop, Storr said, which may help those who aren’t able to get an effective post-emerge application down. Not doing spring fieldwork until late April or early May in some cases allowed farmers to till out or terminate any weeds that had emerged ahead of planting.

“We might have been able to get rid of some of that first flush of weeds by essentially planting a month late, or later than when people would have liked to start,” Storr said.

Making effective applications is going to be key for the 2022 season, as Jorgenson said he is worried about how much an extra pass could cost, not just in inputs, but in fuel. Gas and diesel costs are at record highs nationwide, with the average gallon of gas at $4.70, and a gallon of diesel at $5.31 as of June 9.

“Every trip is just that much more expensive,” he said. “Everything we have to do and the amount of gallons we have to put into fuel, it adds up pretty fast. It’s a good opportunity for high revenue, but it’s higher expenditure. It’s more risk.”

Despite the slower start to the season, Jorgenson said he is pleased with the progress the crop is making. He said there are a lot of unknowns this year with inputs and weed pressure, but ultimately it’s about what comes out of the field in October.

“We are always striving for perfection,” he said. “We got it planted in time, but now we have to let Mother Nature set things out. We have a while until we put a harvester in the field and every day we get closer is another day less of risk.”

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