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USA - Siouxland farmers contend with flooded fields

Corn and soybean fields of northwestern Iowa were water logged after heavy rains started June 20, drenching some areas with a year’s worth of rain in the last 10 days of the month.

More than 13 inches fell on the Dean Meyer farm near Rock Rapids where the Rock River flooded its banks.

“This is probably the toughest year I’ve experienced in my career,” said Meyer, who represents northwestern Iowa on the Iowa Corn Growers Association board.

Other years have brought worse flooding. Meyer recalled 2014 when the Rock River rose higher. This summer seemed worse, he said, because rains came over an extended period. There were three major downpours over a week or so, and two of them brought 5 inches at a time.

Rains came when farmers are usually spraying herbicides to rid their fields of weeds, but fields have been too wet to run equipment and weeds are taking hold.

“There are some really ugly looking soybean fields that really need their herbicide application,” said Paul Kassel, agronomist with Iowa State University Extension in northwestern Iowa.

By now, weeds had grown too big to be controlled with a post-emergence herbicide. The good news was that the pre-emergence applications have worked very well, he wrote in his weekly report for ISU Extension.

While rain caused some crop damage, Meyer said the worst economic hit will come from yield loss caused by weed pressure.

As June came to a close, Meyer was trying to decide how to get the second application of nitrogen on his corn fields. Without it, he’d take an even bigger hit in yields. Aerial application was an option. It would be more expensive to hire a plane to fly on the fertilizer versus paying for a ground application.

Corn and soybeans in fields without good drainage were struggling most, Kassel observed during the last week of June. The lower leaves of the corn plants were turning yellow and brown, and waterlogged soybeans were yellowing.

On a positive note, Kassel said wet conditions will reduce the potential for damage from corn rootworms. He still encourages producers to scout for rootworms as well as corn bores once fields dry out.

Wet weather late in the growing season can bring iron deficiencies in soybeans, added Syngenta agronomist Nathan Popiel. A wet, humid microclimate under the canopy can be a place for disease to take hold, he said. Fungicides will help the crop cope with the disease, but none of the fungicides will take it out, he said.

Planting in northwest Iowa got done in a patchwork fashion this spring. Cold weather stayed until late in the season, and fields were slow to dry out. Water damage hit crops differently depending on their growth stage.

“Some corn that was planted early and well tilled fields look tremendous,” Kassel said.

Soybeans were taking it harder, he said. He expects some crops will be a loss

If farmers could get in their fields in early July, replanting was an option, but most fields were still too wet. Planting small grains provides another option were the corn or bean crop is a loss. Kassel suggested millet, which can be planted from mid- to late-July.

For Meyer, it was too late to replant, but he was keeping his hopes high for the rest of the growing season.

“We’ve got the moisture underneath. We’re going to get sunshine. We’re going to get heat,” he said. “I’m optimistic we can still have a good crop.”

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