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Corn-Planting Snapshots: South-Central Iowa

  • 01

    When it comes to corn planting in south-central Iowa, it's so far, so good. Farmers there were able to catch a planting window in April, and fields like this one south of Winterset are emerging.

  • 02

    This was another field by Carlisle, Iowa, that was emerging. These fields were part of the 23% of corn acres planted in Iowa by May 4 this year. It's still behind the 2009 to 2013 average of 50%, but still well ahead of last year's 7% level by May 4.

  • 03

    A uniformly emerging stand with evenly spaced corn plants is a good omen for corn yields come fall. That doesn't always happen.

  • 04

    Maladies like skips and doubles can plague even the most finely tuned corn planter. However, University of Minnesota (U of M) research shows an occasional skip or double may not have as large of an impact as you'd think.

  • 05

    U of M research showed stands with one double out of every six seeds yielded just 1% less than a stand with uniform plant spacing.

  • 06

    What does hurt corn yields is uneven emergence. U of M tests show corn yields for stands where every other plant is delayed one leaf stage tallied 94% of yields in fields with uniform stands. Yields for stands where every other plant is delayed two leaf stages tallied 83% of yields in fields with uniform stands.

  • 07

    With corn planting mainly finished in the area, soybean planting is now taking center stage. Iowa State University (ISU) research from 2004 notes yield potential for conventionally tilled fields starts declining 0.2 bushels per day starting May 1 through May 15. From then until May 31, yields decline 0.3 bushels per day.

  • 08

    For no-till, yield dips are even greater in Iowa. ISU research shows yield potential declines of 0.3 bushels per day from May 1 to May 15. From May 15 to May 31, a 0.4-bushel-per-day yield decline occurs before a 1.8-bushel-per-acre decline starts on June 1.

  • 09

    Eighty years after the Dust Bowl occurred in the Great Plains and Midwest, recent dust storms in states like Kansas and Colorado show soil erosion is still a concern. No-till, exhibited here in this Warren County, Iowa, field, is one way to slice erosion potential.

  • 10

    Another component joining no-till for slicing erosion potential is a cover crop like cereal rye. This grass helps hold soil in place and stimulates soil microbial growth before a main cash crop like soybeans is planted.

  • 11

    Not all land in south-central Iowa is in cropland. There's still a fair share of pasture for cattle and horses like these. I had a nice visit with Rene Staudacher from Indianola, Iowa. She and her husband own Raven Beauty (front) and Zip, and live on an acreage near Indianola.

Check in on planting progress in one area where farmers have been up until this weekend largely unimpeded by rainfall compared to other parts of the Midwest.

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