When it comes to crop production, most long-term farm operators are often heard saying that “no two years are the same.”
That statement is certainly true in many portions of southern Minnesota and northern Iowa as it relates to the 2016 growing season, in comparison to the previous year.
The 2015 crop year featured almost ideal growing conditions across the region, and resulted in record corn and soybean yields in both Minnesota and Iowa, as well as for many individual producers. The first half of the 2016 growing season has been much different with some areas dealing with very late planting, while other portions of the region have experienced a late frost, excessive rainfall, and hail damage.
In southwest Minnesota, northwest Iowa, and eastern South Dakota, a considerable amount of 2016 corn was not planted until late May or early June, leaving the crop development well behind normal.
From an agronomic standpoint a significant amount of corn in this region is two-three weeks or more behind normal development. This increases the likelihood that a large amount of corn could have maturity issues this fall, and that the 2016 corn crop is much more susceptible to a normal or earlier than normal first frost. It also increases the odds of wetter corn at harvest, which will likely lead to higher corn drying costs this Fall.
Some of these same locations, as well as a large area in the western portions of south central Minnesota, were severely impacted by heavy rainfall events during mid-June, which caused considerable drown-out damage in some areas. It was too late to replant corn acres at that point, but many farmers planted some early varieties of soybeans.
However, some of those replanted soybeans have drowned-out again, due to heavy rainfall events in early July. In addition, there have been numerous severe storms across southern and western Minnesota that have featured hail and wind damage to crops. Some of the more extensive hail damage resulted in some replanting of soybeans.
Similar to the late planted corn, farm operators that replanted soybeans will need to hope for a long growing season, and some favorable weather conditions in August and September.
In areas of the upper Midwest that have not dealt with these weather challenges, crop conditions look good to excellent at most locations. Above normal growing degree units (GDU’s), along with adequate soil moisture, has resulted in very favorable growing conditions in many areas. The accumulation of GDU’s at the University of Minnesota Southern Minnesota Research Center totaled 1,121 GDU’s from May 1 through July 8, 2016, which is about 8 percent above the normal GDU accumulation of 1,034 on July 8.
By comparison, there were 982 GDU’s accumulated by July 8, 2015; 1,005 GDU’s in 2014, and 985 GDU’s in 2013. Much of the corn that was planted in April, and was not impacted by the severe weather in June, was beginning to tassel and pollinate by July 8, under very favorable conditions.
June rainfall amounts were quite variable across the region, with some areas of upper Midwest, receiving excessive amounts of rainfall during June, while other areas ended the month a bit dry. Total rainfall at the Waseca Research Center in the month of June was 4.75 inches, which nearly the same as the long-term average June rainfall.
The total precipitation for 2016 through June 30 at Waseca is now at 13.68 inches, which is about 3 inches below normal. Many areas of western south central Minnesota received more than double their normal precipitation during the month of June, receiving 4-6 inches in single rainfall events. There are also some areas of western Minnesota and the eastern Dakota’s that ended June quite dry.
Fortunately, some widespread rainfall across the region in early July has alleviated most drought concerns for the time being.
In addition to drown-out damage, the frequent excessive rainfall amounts during the month of June have also resulted in shallow corn root development, as well as some leaching of available nitrogen in the soil profile. This has resulted in very uneven corn stands and some corn showing nitrogen deficiency in portions of fields.
There are also areas with yellow, chlorotic-looking soybeans, due to the excessively wet soil conditions. Close to maximum levels of stored soil moisture exist in most areas of Southern Minnesota, so any major rainfall events can quickly result in large amount of standing water in crop fields.
Based on the weekly USDA Crop Progress Report for July 3, 75 percent of the corn and 70 percent of the soybeans in the United States were rated good to excellent, and only 5 percent of the corn and 7 percent of the soybeans were rated poor.
In both Minnesota and Iowa, 79 percent of the corn was rated good to excellent, with soybeans at 74 percent in Minnesota and 77 percent in Iowa rated in the higher categories. Only 3 percent of the corn and 4 percent of the soybeans in Minnesota were rated in the “poor” category as of July 3, which could be a bit understated, given the weather challenges in many areas of south central and southwest Minnesota during June.