The 2020 planting season is starting to wind down in much of the nation and the region, including Nebraska.
As of May 24, the U.S. Department of Agriculture pegged corn planting in Nebraska at 97%, which is ahead of the 89% five-year average and last year’s 78%. Farmers have also seeded 89% of the soybean crop. This compares to just 51% last year and the 62% five-year average.
The record planting pace is hard to believe considering last year the state’s farmers were dealing with record rainfall and flooding, including the March bomb cyclone and historic flooding that resulted in $1 billion of losses in the state and $400 million to the grain sector alone.
Bart Ruth farms in north-central Nebraska and says the 2020 planting season is a 180-degree change.
“This year we pretty much had a two-week window and started planting beans the day after we started corn and were done within two weeks,” he says.
He says they even got what sometimes is prevented planting acres seeded, wrapping up the last field May 6.
“A field that had been underwater the last couple of years, and we let it dry out a little bit and planted it this year for the first time in the last several years,” he says.
In northeast Nebraska, Jim Miller of Belden says most farmers are also finished planting in one of the fastest planting seasons he can remember.
“It’s been going in in record time this year. Conditions have been really good. The ground is getting dried out enough for no-tilling that you’re not having sidewall compaction and that type of stuff,” he explains.
However, even with some recent rain, parts of the state remain behind normal on precipitation for the year.
“We was extremely wet and now we’re actually seeing some (irrigation) pivots have been running in this area and the ground conditions on the top are starting to get dried out. I know the drought monitor says the drought is starting to move further north,” Miller says.
“We’re below normal . . . compared to the last several years, but you know there was pretty good moisture out there for germination, but we’ll see. A guy hates to be turning on the sprinklers this time of year,” Ruth adds.
The quick turn from too wet to dry is also reminiscent of 2011 to 2012, which went from flooding to drought.
While there was enough moisture to get the crop emerged, it was slow with temperatures and growing degree days below normal much of May.
“It just can really affect your yield if you don’t get that corn to all emerge in a uniform manner. You want to get that corn up as fast as possible and get every plant to come up relatively close to the same time,” Miller says.
Now Nebraska farmers are looking for some sun and a return to normal precipitation patterns to capitalize on production potential from the early planting.
“We got a nice early start, we got good stand counts as far as we can tell. Hopefully, we can have the kind of year that lets us grow enough to get to a profitable level you’re not going to get by just on average yields,” Ruth says.