Production Blog

Rain, Ponds and Plans

Pam Smith
By  Pam Smith , Crops Technology Editor
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The field on the right was planted early in central Illinois and has weathered cold and heavy rains. Will the field to the left (typically corn-on-corn) get switched to soybeans is the question. (DTN photo by Pamela Smith)

DECATUR, Ill. (DTN) -- Wet spring weather always puts me back in senior year high school Algebra II class. It wasn't my best subject (probably why I became a word person) and I was prone to daydreaming.

That year, however, I watched it rain on my dreams. As the circle drive in front of the high school turned into lakeside property, I worried that my college career might dry up before it ever launched. No crops, no tuition... it was as simple as that. Farm kids know the realities.

Looking back into some old records, I find my home region of central Illinois had about 5 inches of rain during May and 9 inches during June that year. That doesn't seem like much given the deluges we've seen in 2017. However, it is a different day. Tile helped move some water, but those clay systems weren't nearly as efficient as modern-day pattern tiling.

It was well into June before we finished planting in 1973. The thought of not getting planted was unthinkable. When it dried enough to mud in, we went to 24-hour workdays and welcomed the long hours in the tractor seat over the sleepless nights checking the rain gauge. Radio broadcasts were our connection to information on what might be coming then. On-farm weather stations or click-away weather reports weren't even on our radar.

The gumbo we couldn't plant got sidestepped and patched in later. A couple of those wet holes were filled with watermelon and sweet corn, but at least they didn't sit idle. We replanted some corn acres and rotary hoed beans to beat the band. It wasn't a pretty year, but the season stands in stark contrast in my mind to those many times when we wished for rain instead of wishing it away.

Federal crop insurance and prevented planting has changed the cropping options significantly in these modern times. We know many acres have been replanted this year. See the DTN article by Emily Unglesbee: http://bit.ly/….

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There are so many different scenarios this planting season that it's hard to categorize the situations. The state university specialists have been doing a good job posting information to help answer situations.

University of Missouri agronomist Greg Luce outlines the situation being faced in that state and gives some charts of what to expect in terms of yield as we go forward: http://bit.ly/….

Purdue University agronomist Bob Nielsen's video digs into what is happening beneath the surface and how to evaluate roots in cornfields that have been slow to emerge. Watch it here: http://bit.ly/….

How do you kill a failed corn stand if you want to start over? University of Missouri weed specialist Kevin Bradley addresses that question here: http://bit.ly/….

Growers also begin to contemplate switching corn acres to soybeans during these prolonged planting seasons. University of Wisconsin's Shawn Conley has posted a check list of what to think about. Read it here: http://bit.ly/…. For example: Do you have a residual corn herbicide down that is not labeled for soybean? If so, don't switch...

Soybean yield loss estimates are slightly lower than corn as we move forward on the calendar, but return on investment should be considered before switching, Conley noted. Another Wisconsin colleague, Joe Lauer, has posted a good exercise to go through to assess stands and determine population here: http://bit.ly/….

Growers that have already applied nitrogen or following alfalfa have some additional considerations. University of Illinois agronomist Emerson Nafziger addressed some of those concerns in a blog post last week. Read it here: http://bit.ly/….

Conley notes in his news release on late planting the too much nitrogen can sometimes make the soybean plant put on more vegetative growth than desired, but he's more concerned about the potential for white mold. He also recommends pulling the inoculant from the seed treatment mix if planting soybeans into high-nitrogen situations in fields that have seen regular soybean cropping (two years out of the last five years). "Don't ditch your elite corn genetics to plant junk beans," Conley also states.

With all this information just a Google away, it makes me wonder how we ever did anything right back in the day. Perhaps what makes my old memories relevant is they serve as a reminder of the fortitude it takes to endure tough situations and the hope needed to keep on trying. That never seems to change.

Pamela Smith can be reached at Pamela.smith@dtn.com

Follow her on Twitter @PamSmithDTN

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