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Flooding can cause problems for spring planting

Flooding can cause problems for spring planting

  • Updated

Cropping specialists and producers are predicting that 2019 planting in Nebraska will be delayed at least several weeks because of extremely wet field conditions.

After the 2011 Missouri River flood, some eastern Nebraska fields were under water three months after the initial flood surge.

Pre-plant fertilizer and chemical field applications typically would be underway now, with corn planting from April 20 to May 5 for optimum grain production.

Flood recovery could take months or even years for some farms, ranches and families. Managing wet fields this spring will require patience.

Whether the job is removing flood debris, tillage or fertilizer-manure applications, severe rutting and deep soil compaction can occur if farm equipment is used too soon on wet fields with soil capacity conditions. Fields should be allowed to dry before planting.

Adjusting planters

University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension Engineer Paul Jasa says planter sidewall compaction is a concern if wet soil conditions continue.

Most planters are designed for 2- to 3-inch planting depths, especially those with angled closing wheels.

When a planter properly closes the seed-vee, the furrow sidewalls should fracture the soil closing around the seed. That eliminates the sidewalls and provides adequate seed-to-soil contact.

Most sidewall compacting problems in wet soils occur when press wheels are set with too much downward pressure, which overpacks the seeds into the soil. With shallow planting, the compaction is below seeding depths and makes it difficult for seedling roots to penetrate the soil.

Jasa said down pressure on press wheels should be checked at seeding depth, not at the top of the seed-vee. If seed-to-soil contact is adequate, don’t tighten down pressure springs trying to close the seed-vee.

Also, make sure the planter is properly leveled or even slightly tail down so angled closing wheels have a pinching action to close the seed-vee.

Prevented planting information

Nebraska Extension has a new educational resource for short-term and long-term emergency and recovery response.

Included is the U.S. Department of Agriculture Risk Management Agency’s “Prevented Planted Insurance Provisions” fact sheet link. The fact sheet says producers may receive crop insurance payments even if a crop isn’t planted.

This is a good time to discuss options with crop insurance representatives. RMA final dates for full insurance guaranteed coverage varies by region, so check with your agent or online at for specific coverage.

May 31 is Nebraska’s historic corn planting cutoff date for grain production; it’s June 5 for silage. Reduced insurance coverage can be extended for late planted corn up to June 25 for corn and June 30 for silage.

Nebraska Extension Cropping Agronomist Roger Elmore says that if corn planting is delayed until June 10-15, very early maturing corn hybrids should be used. After June 15, planting is risky unless the corn can be used for silage.

Decision tools

The U2U (Useful to Usable) Corn GDD (Growing Degree Days) Decision Support Tool is available free online and provides a 30-year historical trends climate data comparison tool and decision software from Midwest universities.

Nebraska GDD data from the High Plains Regional Climatic Center data can be used to predict when corn will reach maturity. Farmers can compare different maturities and decide whether to switch corn hybrids based on projected planting dates.

Also now available are free Nebraska Extension Decision Simulation crop models that include the UNL Hybrid Maize and Irrigation needs for corn and soybeans can be predicted by using the Evapotranspiration and Crop Water Use Summary.

There also is an embedded crop development component that can predict potential final maturity dates based on the hybrid-variety maturity selected and planting dates

Seasonal climate and forecasting is available at and

Resources include freeze risk probability predictions and best planting dates, Nebraska’s accumulated growing degree days, daily soil temperatures and 7-day averages, ET and irrigation data, precipitation, and other weather-related updates. The GPS tool provides site-specific cumulative growing degree days, plus rainfall forecasts and heat risk probability for one to nine months.

Get more delayed planting information from local Extension offices.

Todd Whitney is a University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension educators whose focus area is comprised of Phelps, Gosper, Harlan and Furnas counties.

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