“One of the main questions I hear from farmers still trying to plant after devastating, historic flooding and the blizzard is … should I switch to earlier maturing corn?” relayed Dustin Bowling, Agrigold Seed western agronomy manager based in Chillicothe, Mo.
“As a grower,” he recommended, “seek the advice of your seed professional. They’ll advise you about the best hybrid, which may actually be the hybrid you already have.”
After the frigid and wetter than normal El Niño late winter and early spring, some good planting opportunities came from mid-April to the end of April.
“Then, we’ve been in a wet pattern in the western corn belt, which slowed us down,” Bowling said.
Each day after May 1, the corn hybrids’ life cycle shortens by 6.8 growing degree units (GDUs), allowing them to reach maturity quicker versus an earlier planting date.
The delayed spring has many growers questioning if they can finish planting corn.
Also, rain remains in the forecast and the Climate Prediction Center expects a cooler and wetter than normal summer for the Plains. The El Niño climate pattern is also forecast to continue.
“Too much soil moisture and cool temperatures can negatively impact germination and emergence of corn from problems such as soil crusting or compacted soils,” said Boone McAfee, director of research and stewardship with the Nebraska Corn Board. “Wet conditions at planting or during the growing season may also lead to greater risk of disease and pathogens.”
As far as making changes, growers are advised to weigh their options carefully.
“Their original variety or hybrid was chosen for a reason, presumably because it was the best fit for that acre,” explained said David Thompson, national marketing and sales director, Stine Seed Co. “So the only reason to switch, is if there are real concerns about reaching full maturity, but the question is how quickly we can get that seed moved around.”
In Kansas, certain areas may justify replanting corn.
“If your stand is uneven and there’s ponding of water and it looks questionable, then in some cases, it may be best to plant earlier maturing varieties,” said Ryan Harms, territory manager for Pioneer Seed in north central Kansas. “It’s always recommended to have your seed sales representative evaluate your stand, because they see a lot of field situations throughout the year. And, it may be better to keep the stand you have, because you may end up with the same yield potential.”
Some corn that went through a lot of stresses could bring on late season diseases like stalk rot and crown rot.
“These could lead to harvestability issues, so a timely harvest will be needed, or evaluated,” Harms added.
For farmers also planting beans, Harms cautions, “Don’t be tempted to skimp on seed treatments There’s a lot of fungi from all the rain — which can attack beans. But we want to keep the beans as healthy as possible, so they mature out and bring a healthy yield,” Harms said.
Those closest to rivers that flooded are experiencing challenges unlike most other people. Some of the big issues are sand and sediment deposits, debris (logs, trash) and corn stalk piles.
“Much of that can’t easily be removed from the fields because of restrictions from the Department of Environmental Quality. There are health hazards with flood debris and flooded areas because they don’t know what was in the water,” said Tyler Williams, ag climate and weather Extension educator, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
In an eerie reminder, Nebraska and surrounding states experienced a colder and snowy El Niño from February through mid-March, followed by Nebraska’s historic March flooding.
“Also, temperatures remained below freezing for several weeks, which produced widespread ice formation on rivers and creeks,” explained Michael Moritz, warning coordination meteorologist at the National Weather Service, Hastings, Neb. “When the storm approached, it was clear this was a different storm. There was rapid runoff resulting from snow melt, and then from heavy rain. Instead of soaking into the ground, the precipitation flowed into the ice covered rivers and streams, overloading waterways, and causing widespread ice jams. Then, as temperatures warmed and water flow increased, the ice gave way and catastrophic flooding occurred.”
Williams said planting a forage crop is always an option.
“Nebraska has plenty of livestock to eat it and a feed supply that was completely drained this winter and spring,” he said.
Kansas is now about 70 to 80 percent planted, Harms said.
“Just think before you make any changes, and talk it out,” Harms suggested. “And, since next year’s seed supply could be affected by the weather, it’s a good idea to get your next year’s order in early.”
But, noted Harms, “It is their livelihood … and it is a great lifestyle, and that’s what I like about it.”
Amy Hadachek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.