Southeast Michigan field crops report

Concerns about delayed corn planting and any yield losses are not as important as soil compaction, which can adversely affect yields for several years.

Weather has been wet! I have emptied an inch of rain out of my rain gauge four times over the past ten days alone. Fields are saturated. Drainage ditches are full, not allowing drainage tile to work. Soil temperatures have remained in the 40’s due to persistent cloudy conditions with alternating cool and warmer air temperatures.

Alfalfa has been greening up nicely. Alfalfa weevils are small with little feeding to this point. Hay prices remain sluggish as supplies are plentiful.

Corn seed remains in the bag. Planters remain parked. With the current wet soil conditions, it will be the end of the first week of May, given great drying conditions, before any planting can begin. Soil compaction will be a tremendous potential problem if farmers rush to get tractors and equipment into the fields too early. Annual weeds are beginning to make an appearance. Spraying corn fields before planting may be a good strategy to get weeds under control and to slightly delay planting by letting the soil dry for another day or two.

Oats and spring barley was planted several weeks ago on lighter, sandier soils.

Soybean planting has not started yet with the wet soils and continuing rain.

Wheat is at Feekes’ growth stage 4. Most fields had an early spring nitrogen application a couple of weeks ago. Winter annual weeds, dandelions and now yellow rocket and the mustards are now showing up in fields. With some drying weather, there is time to get weeds under control with a wide choice of herbicides before we reach Feekes stage 6. Otherwise, there are still sufficient choices with some taller wheat. Farmer attention to finishing up nitrogen and herbicide applications to wheat with lighter equipment may also buy another day or two to allow corn and soybean ground to dry so planting equipment does not compact the soil. Windy conditions have not been conducive to spraying without the risk of drift.

I think we have had a record amount of rainfall for April this year in southeast Michigan. Streams and ditches are currently full, not allowing fields to drain very well. Farmer concerns about delayed corn planting and any yield losses are not as important as soil compaction, which can adversely affect yields for several years. Anything farmers can do to lighten tractors by removing weights, adding dual tires will help prevent compaction and may allow them to plant through some marginally wet spots in fields so the entire field is planted at one time.

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