Tough Lessons From 2019 Farmers Can Use Now

A muddy field in Missouri. ( Farm Journal )

While 2019 was a nightmare for many farmers, it provided valuable lessons that farmers can act upon this year. The 2020 spring planting season is starting soggy, which is less than encouraging for farmers, but with 2019 close in the rear-view and means farmers know how to quickly adapt.

Despite recent rain, “right now, as of March, our streamflow is actually more like ‘normal’ compared to last year,” says Ken Ferrie, Farm Journal Field Agronomist to AgriTalk Host Chip Flory. “Which is a sign that if we can just get some weather to break it, we could actually be in a normal timeframe right where we sit here from draining these fields out and get ready to go.

“I think we can take what we learned a year ago and apply it to this year,” he adds.

For one thing, Ferrie says farmers are in better shape in terms of field preparation than they were in the spring of 2019. More fall nitrogen was applied, and more tillage was completed, for example.

“From a weather sense, it hasn’t been as intense as it was in 2019,” says Michael Clark, BAMWX meteorologist. “The outlook going forward isn’t nearly as intense, either.”

Here is Clark's weather breakdown by region for the upcoming week:

  • Parts of Missouri, Kansas, Iowa and Nebraska: Current rainy weather pattern calms down as farmers get into April; good opportunity for more drying. Early April will open up chilly for the first six to 10 days but will eventually warm up.
  • North Dakota and South Dakota: Has been drier—just 15% to 20% of normal precipitation. The outlook for next few weeks is for dry conditions.
  • I-80 Corridor, from Omaha to Ohio: More rain over the next seven to 10 days. Some parts of southern Indiana and into Ohio are running 200% of the normal precipitation for March. The outlook for April is that the rain will stop and conditions will improve.

What if planting gets pushed back?

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) forecast suggests higher-than-normal precipitation through June. If this comes to fruition, already saturated fields could mean farmers again push planting into late May and June—possibly later, depending on local conditions.

But how late is too late to plant?

“We put this to the test last year of course,” Ferrie says. You have to consider a few factors when it comes to late planting: First, what is the crop maturity you’re planting; what growing degree units (GDUs) do you need to get the crop to maturity; do you have drying capacity if GDUs take longer to accumulate; what is the upcoming weather?

Take those factors into consideration before switching crop maturities, crop types or taking prevent plant.

Read more planting news here:

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