Tested tough

Agriculture.com Staff 12/09/2008 @ 9:20am

There's a Norwegian joke that goes like this: What do they do in Norway when it rains?

They just let it rain.

Sadly, this funny became reality for many farmers last spring.

Early planting into a fit seedbed is a great way to boost soybeans yields. In 2008, though, the key words -- fit seedbed -- often didn't apply.

"A problem we had was just around 5% of the fields were planted in perfect conditions in Iowa due to flooding and wet weather," says Palle Pedersen, Iowa State University Extension agronomist and High Yield Team (HYT) expert panelist.

Mudding-in soybeans just to plant early will compact soils and place seed poorly. "This outweighs any advantage of early planting," he says.

Still, there's a fine line between fit seedbeds and lost planting days. Miss a planting window with borderline soil conditions in a spring like 2008 and another week may pass before you can do fieldwork.

That's the situation Matt Mayer, Spencer, Iowa, found himself in last spring. Typically, Mayer starts planting corn between April 15-20 and soybeans the first week of May. This spring, though, prolific rainfall and soggy soils contracted planting windows as taut as a tightrope.

"The sun was shining, but the ground was not fit to plant," Mayer says. "With those conditions, it was hard to sit."

By May 20, after finishing corn, he started planting soybeans. "We went pretty hard, running three planters over 24 hours," he says.

Good soybean stands eventually emerged. The key?

"Most of our farm is pattern tiled every 60 to 80 feet," says Mayer. "This made a huge difference for us in getting through our fields at planting."

Over the years, Mark Bernard has heard farmers complain about rising input costs with one exception.

"I've never heard farmers complain they had too much tile," says the New Richland, Minnesota, crop consultant and HYT expert panel member. "Areas of fields that have stand problems are frequently related to areas with little or no tile."

There's a Norwegian joke that goes like this: What do they do in Norway when it rains?

Seed treatments containing a fungicide and/or insecticide also helped Mayer's soybeans withstand early wet soils.

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