Production Blog

Wild Weather Woes

Pam Smith
By  Pam Smith , Crops Technology Editor
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Hail required replanting of corn in west-central Iowa. John Long, an agronomist for Mycogen, said the replanted crop should be looking at black layer the first week of October if no other weather event befalls it. (DTN photo by Pamela Smith)

UNDERWOOD, Iowa (DTN) -- Craig and Eric Hough were cleaning and putting away their planter for the second time when I visited them last week. A 3-minute hail storm on June 3 stripped corn fields and quickly cut corn stands in half.

"We had stands that ranged from 12,000 to 14,000 [plants per acre]," said Craig. "We replanted everything that was less than 18,000." The father-son team had to replant 400 acres of corn and 300 acres of soybeans.

"Look at all the brown ground," Craig said, his arm wiping across the rolling hills of west-central Iowa. In haste to get a crop back into the field, many farmers in the area did not take time to tear up the tattered fields and instead, no-tilled into existing stands. Fields of small three- to four-leaf corn now look as if they've been infested with a heavy infestation of volunteer corn.

"I can take you to fields that haven't grown since the hail storm. It split the crowns," Craig said. He added that much of the corn had fought back from a killing frost earlier in the season. Pictures on his cellphone show piles of hailstones alongside buildings.

"This county has the lowest risk for hail in Iowa," Eric added. "Storms usually come from the southwest and break up before they reach the river. This one came from the northwest." Terraces were stripped of cover and erosion caused by the accompanying rains is evident throughout the region.

Mycogen Seeds Customer Agronomist John Long travels this part of Iowa as part of his territory. He said the good news is warmer temperatures allowed the replanted corn to get a faster start than the corn planted earlier in the season. However, thin stands and bare ground have also favored weeds such as waterhemp, and wet weather has played havoc with post-emergence herbicide applications.

With corn herbicides already in place, the Houghs had no choice but to replant corn. They lamented the fact the corn market had yet to feel their pain.

Still, Monday's USDA report indicates this may be one of the smallest planted corn crops in years. Corn planted area for all purposes in 2014 is estimated at 91.6 million acres, down 4% from last year. This represents the lowest planted acreage in the United States since 2010; however, this is the fifth largest corn acreage in the United States since 1944.

Soybean planted area for 2014 is estimated at a record-high 84.8 million acres, up 11% from last year. Area for harvest, at 84.1 million acres, is up 11% from 2013 and will be a record high by more than 7.4 million acres, if realized. Record-high planted acreage is estimated in Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

My 2,500-mile drive through Nebraska, Missouri, Iowa and Illinois found a lot of soybeans struggling with wet feet. I also spotted Goss's Wilt symptoms in corn near York, Neb. There's no fungicide answer for that disease.

On the other hand, the corn that has managed to avoid weather damage and was planted in a timely fashion has never looked better. Corn is close or reaching tassel stage in central Illinois.

Predictions of rain and thunderstorms with possible hail, high winds and a few tornados for the western and north-central Midwest region don't bode well for some of this healthy crop either. University of Illinois physiologist Fred Below told DTN that he always holds his breath during this stage of the growing season.

"Corn is susceptible to green snap right now because it is growing at its most rapid rate," he said. "The stalk, if very rapidly expanding, is not yet fully lignified."

The Houghs just hope to get to that stage. Their farm experienced some golf-ball-size hail again yesterday. "Not enough to do any damage, but enough to make you wonder what's going on," said Craig.



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