Farm Horizons, August 2014

Wet spring and early summer may not be so bad for area seed corn crop

By Jennifer Kotila

After a wet spring delayed the planting of seed corn by about two to three weeks in many area fields, the inundation of rain in June destroyed some of the seed corn crop that farmers had gotten in the ground. Typically, farmers are able to get into the fields around April 25 to begin planting, but this year, most farmers were not able to plant until mid-May, according to Kevin Dahlman of Dahlco Seeds in Cokato.

However, the delay in spring planting does not necessarily mean a delay in harvest at the end of the season, Dahlman noted. “Corn can catch up,” he said, noting the most important time for seed corn is July and August. Ideally, farmers will want a “gorgeous” July and August, with about 1 inch of rain every Saturday, 85-degree days, and temperatures between 65 and 70 degrees at night.

The area of the state most affected by the substantial rain in June was east-central Minnesota and western Wisconsin, Dahlman said, where considerably more fields were left unplanted than in other areas of the state.

“They seem to have garnered more rain, and more frequency of rain,” Dahlman added. However, that area was somewhat of an island, and the rest of the Corn Belt (Midwestern portion of the US) is faring well, he added. This the opposite of two years ago, when this area fared significantly well with its corn crop, and the rest of the Corn Belt suffered from bad corn crops.

Following the heavy rains in June, every farmer in the area who had crops planted lost some to standing water in the field, Dahlman noted. “It’s hard to quantify the amount,” he said, adding that corn can only tolerate being under water for 72 hours, and most of the standing water stayed in the fields longer. Also, when the topsoil and subsoil carries a surplus of water, roots do not have to grow as deeply to get the nutrients needed. This could spell trouble later in the season if there are extended periods of hot, dry weather with little precipitation, Dahlman noted.

Another weather-related event that could spell trouble for the seed corn crop is an early frost, Dahlman said. Typically, the first frost comes around the first week of October. “We don’t need an early frost in September to shorten the growing season (this year),” Dahlman added.

As of July 21, topsoil and subsoil moisture in Minnesota was mostly adequate or at a surplus, according to the Minnesota Crop Progress and Condition Report. Of the corn planted, 64 percent of the corn crop in Minnesota was in good to excellent condition, with 23 percent silking – 20 percentage points behind the five-year average. Only 8 percent of the corn crop in Minnesota was rated as very poor or poor.

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