Crops’ Double Whammy: Heavy Rain and Freeze Events

Rain ( MGN Image )

The warm feelings of planting accomplishments were washed away with a hard weekend rain on corn and soybean farmer Steve Pitstick’s farm. Just 50 miles west of Chicago, near Dekalb, Ill., the farmer was 90% planted on corn, and nearing that number on soybeans.

“Starting Thursday, we got about 3.5 inches to 4 inches of rain,” Pitstick says. “Most of the fields are flooded and there’s a lot of washing.”

Parts of Illinois received over 6” this past weekend and they’re not the only state that was hit as much of the Midwest was doused.

“With this big rain, we’ll see what damage we get from flooded areas,” he says.  “We might be 5% prevent plant this year, last year we were in 25% to 50%.”

Whether your crops are emerged, or simply sitting in the ground, Mother Nature isn’t making this spring easy for them. Heavy downpour led to crusting over the weekend and elongated cool temperatures threaten emerged crops.

“It’s kind of a double-edged sword,” says Ken Ferrie, Farm Journal field agronomist. “If your crop was up, you got hit by the freeze. If it’s not, it’s dealing with the emergence challenges to get through this crust from all that rain.”

He anticipates a lot of farmers will be carefully reviewing fields for replant.

Rain threatens un-emerged corn and soybeans

“My biggest concern is the amount of cornfields we have in trouble,” Ferrie says. “Between spending 20 to 25 days in the ground, seed chilling issues, saturated soils and now crusting, it’s causing some of this corn to leaf out underground. It’s decision time on this stuff.”

When it comes to emerged corn, get out in the fields and scout. If you need to replant, Ferrie advises it’s better to make that decision sooner rather than later. Here are his tips for various scenarios from the rain:

  • Hoe: Use the hoe to break up the hard crust on the soil. In some cases, you might have to run it across a field twice. But doublecheck what you’re doing. Put a flag down as a spot to check and after you hoe once, make sure you’re improving the standard and not going backwards.
  • Planter: If you don’t have a hoe, your planter might be able to break up a hard crust for you. “Use your corn planter as a precision hoe,” Ferrie says. “Set the depth as shallow as you can. To keep the disc opener from doing any damage, take the pressure off of your closing wheels, take the pressure off of your row unit and let your row cleaners break the crust. You might have to apply a little more down pressure to the row cleaner and the row unit.”
  • Vertical Harrow: “Take for instance, the Great Plains Turbo Till or the Salford or the McFarlane Insight, you can use these to crack the crust,” he says. “We’re running these puppies shallow and definitely checking the outcome behind them. Speed disks do not work for this purpose.”

What you need to know about the freeze

While bigger corn was hit the hardest by the freeze, corn overall seems to have the highest survival rate. Soybeans need scouting.

“In the low-lying areas [soybean] was 100% kill and the plants melted to the ground by Monday [after last weekend’s freeze event],” Ferrie says. “When the plant melts to the ground, it means the stem below the first node has been taken out and there’s no chance of recovery.”

Many soybean fields he walked fell between 10% and 60% stand loss—much of it was recognizable in just a few days. This week, however, farmers and scouts will be able to clearly identify what plants have new growth and will recover, and what fields need replanted.

Read more crops and replant news here:

Use Imagery and Boots on the Ground to Scout Freeze-Damaged Fields

Michigan Farmer on Planting: “Can’t Be Any Worse Than Last Year”

Prevent Plant in South Dakota, North Dakota Could Rival Last Year

Ken Ferrie: Crop Risk from this Weekend’s Frost? 7/10

Tips to Help Decide to Replant or Not

Did Weekend Rain Wash Away Corn and Soybean Stands?

Northern Corn Belt Braces For Frost, Freeze Risk This Week

I-80 Planting Tour Missouri: 'We've Been Able to Get a Lot Planted'