Recent rains have left standing water in low-lying fields throughout Story County, causing a delay in the spring planting season.
As of Monday, Story County has received approximately 3.5 inches of rain since April 16, according to the National Weather Service (NWS). Miles Schumacher, NWS meteorologist in Johnston, said the cool, wet weather has not been caused by any type of seasonal weather pattern, such as El Nino or La Nina.
“It’s just what we call a blocked pattern that has to do with oceanic patterns in the Atlantic and a depressed jet stream,” Schumacher said.
Regardless of the cause, it is keeping farmers out of the fields. Mark Licht, extension field agronomist with Story County Extension, said less than 1 percent of the acres in central Iowa have been planted. A majority of farmers have not even been able to get pre-plant field work done because, between the snow, frost, cold weather and recent rains, the soil has not had a chance to dry up.
Normally, the corn planting season runs from April 10 to May 15, and soybeans are planted between April 20 and May 25. With chances of rain in the forecast for the week of April 22, it is likely farmers will not get into their fields until the end of this month, or even into the beginning of May. Compared to last year at this time, Licht said approximately 50 percent of the corn in central Iowa had been planted.
“We’re definitely running behind schedule,” Licht said.
The delay is causing some farmers to become antsy, wondering if they should switch to a short-season maturity hybrid corn crop, rather than a long-season maturity hybrid. Licht tells farmers if they have not planted their corn by May 15, they should begin talking with their seed dealer about making the switch, but not actually switch hybrid types until June 1.
Once the fields do dry up, Licht said farmers will likely get their corn planted “quickly,” some in as little as two days.
“Rather than planting from dawn to dusk, they’ll be getting in the fields at 5 a.m. and planting all day and into the night,” Licht said.
Despite the delay in the planting season, the rain has been a welcome relief after the drought most of Iowa has been under.
“We really do need the rain. I think we would have had bigger issues had we not had it,” Licht said.
He is hoping for drier, warmer weather toward the end of this week to dry the soil so farmers can begin field work.
Schumacher said central Iowa can expect to see temperatures get closer to the average for this time of year in the coming weeks. Average highs for this area are in the low- to mid-60s and average lows are in the 40s.
“We’ll be close to normal for the next month,” Schumacher said.