Hitting the reset button
Wed, 06/09/2021 - 5:42pm admin
—Some farmers facing a decision whether to replant
Marcie Klomp ~ News Editor firstname.lastname@example.org
HOWARD COUNTY - Things were going well for farmers in northeast Iowa this year. Prices were up for both corn and beans compared to years past.
Planting season has been off to a great start. Many crops were planted in late April and early May, ahead of the normal pace. The weather was variable at times but overall above average . . . at least it was, up until early Saturday morning, May 29. That’s when a killing frost settled in, hitting some areas harder than others.
According to Brian Hrdlicka, agronomist at Farmers Win Co-op in Cresco and Chairman of Howard Soil & Water Conservation District, a degree or two in temperature made a considerable difference on how the crops handled stress.
Now some farmers are having to make the difficult decision to replant or hope for the best.
Temperatures in the low 30s affected crops across northern Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin. In all, about five million acres of crops were affected.
“Beans were affected much greater than corn,” Hrdlicka said. He works with farmers across Howard, Chickasaw and Winneshiek counties.
Hrdlicka noted 98% of area corn fields will survive and recover from the frost damage. The growing point for corn was either at or below the soil surface and therefore will continue to grow.
On the other hand, soybeans saw substantial damage in areas. “There have been frost events years past in early May, but this is the latest one that I have ever worked with.”
He noted the growing point for soybean is above ground as soon as the plant emerges. The worst areas he has seen were in the hills, valleys and low-lying areas. Even acres along fence lines and waterways showed greater damage.
The agronomist explained that on average 140,000 soybean seeds are planted per acre. Some of the fields he checked had only a 25% survival rate. If the whole field was this way, the decision to replant was made easy. The harder part was when a field showed greater variable. Survival rates of 25% - 75% were found just steps away from each other.
Replanting soybeans in early June can come with a cost as well. Yield reduction at harvest, or September frost damage are other things farmers have to consider. “Do we leave the existing plants and keep our fingers crossed? Or do we gamble that a replant will be more profitable come harvest? It’s a gamble either way,” Hrdlicka said.
He saw a strong relationship between crop residue and a reduction in live plants. More cover on the soil surface took an extra 30 minutes, plus or minus, to warm up. That 30 minutes was enough to make a difference in areas.
As for numbers in Howard County, Hrdlicka said, “Locally it’s really hard to pinpoint a number. If you went by Kendallville area, up to half the farmers might be replanted. Protivin was another hard-hit area. But then you go by Davis Corners and things look great.”
A person can never figure out Mother Nature. Howard County could get 10 inches of snow, while Chickasaw County gets nothing. The same can be said for rain. As the area saw last week, frost can affect one row, while the next is untouched.