OTTUMWA, Iowa — All the talk of dry conditions in Southeast Iowa is a reality for Don Swanson of Wapello County.
“This is a little dryer than I’ve seen and I’ve never experienced the winds like we’ve had,” Swanson said by phone May 1 from his planter cab. “It’s so windy, and dry soil is blowing off the top here.”
He said April 30 “was one of the most miserable days of planting.”
Though conditions are not ideal, Swanson is sticking with his 50/50 corn and soybean mix on rotating ground.
“I do very little corn on corn, except for a little corn next to the feedlot for my cattle,” he said.
After working with no-till several years ago, Swanson moved away from the practice. This is the first season he’s gone back to it, adding a cereal rye cover crop for grazing his cattle.
“The goal this year is to get back into no-till,” he said. “It’s worked pretty well with cereal rye for forage and conservation purposes. We run a lot of cows, so trying to do more with cover crops makes sense.”
In his district, the USDA reports topsoil moisture at 60 percent short to very short, and subsoil at 79 percent short to very short as of the end of April.
“We’re trying to conserve moisture as best we can,” he said. “Beans are making me nervous, I’m planting deeper than I like.”
Because of the extremely dry conditions, Swanson is planting his soybeans at about 2 inches, well below what he normally does.
“We’re very dry here, the plows are not running. We are very cautious and have done no vertical tillage to conserve soil moisture,” he said. “This is right up there with one of the driest springs I’ve experienced.”