Growing season looking better with recent moisture, heat

Early in the planting season it seemed Brown County farmers couldn’t catch a break. With many cloudy days and storms the season quickly drew to a close with some crops remaining unplanted.

In the past several weeks, heavy rains and storms have hindered some production, but for the most part, Wayne Schoper, South Central College Farm Business Management instructor, said compared to the start of the planting season, the soil moistures are looking much better.

He said approximately seven inches of rain has fallen on the county in the past several weeks. And despite a big hail storm southwest of Springfield that damaged some crops, things are looking pretty good for the first part of July.

However, early on with a cool, late spring, farmers were doubtful. According to Schoper in the spring of 2012, farmers were active in the fields by the end of March and into April with a very active planting season. One of the many differences of last year is that the soil was fully recharged with moisture entering the summer season.

However, Schoper added, over the course of June through October 2012, the area received very little rain, setting up a very dry situation coming in the spring of 2013.

“In the 1930s, during the Great Depression, we had back-to-back years that were very dry and that was devastating and there was some concern that we may see another dry situation like that,” Schoper said.

He went on to say that probably the biggest difference between the spring of 2013 and 2012, is that our moisture levels were way down this spring.

“We started to get some rain and we were very enthusiastic about that, but it was an old fashion late spring,” he added explaining that we had a significant amount of snow in late April and the first part of May.

He went on to say that the average planting date for corn is around April 20.

“We were at least two weeks later than that. The downstroke of all of this is that the planting season was delayed. By June the crop was pretty well in. However, there were some fields where soybeans needed to be planted yet. Experience and research shows us that generally we don’t plant after July 4.” 

Schoper said to put this season in perspective, normally farmers like to have their corn crop planted in the first week to 10 days in May. This spring, there was a lot of corn that went in later than that resulting in possibly wetter corn in the fall and a yield decline after the first week in May.

Schoper noted that while the growing season started out dry, the soil is wet all the way through and now what is needed is continuing rains, about an inch per week, to accelerate crop development.

However, with a delayed spring, Schoper added that the canning crops are also feeling the crunch of a shortened growing season. According to Schoper, in 2012, the first field of peas was planted March 28. This year, he said, it was after the first of May.

“Now what we need from the weather is for it to not get too hot and stay warm overnight and the crops will catch up pretty quickly,” Schoper said.