Agronomist’s Advise Amid Weather Woes

The 2024 planting season has proven to be exceptionally challenging for farmers across the Midwest due to inconsistent and heavy rainfall, reminiscent of the tumultuous spring of 2019.

“Everybody did get rained on, but it was spotty,” says Todd Schaumberg, agronomist for Tilth Agronomy. “Some areas received very, very heavy amounts, while others experienced just heavy bouts, but not as much. Consequently, we have farmers who are nearly done planting and others who have barely started.”

The disparity in rainfall has led to uneven planting progress, with significant portions of corn and soybeans still needing to be sown.

“Even the corn that is ahead isn’t as far along as we’d usually expect,” Schaumburg says. “There’s still time for later-planted crops to catch up, but it will depend heavily on the weather conditions over the next few weeks.”

Following last year’s drought, 2024 has seen a significant replenishment of both subsoil and topsoil moisture. “We’ve seen a lot more standing water and ponding in areas where we didn’t see any in 2023. It’s quite a flip from being worried about drought a few months ago to now dealing with very wet conditions.”

Pest pressure is another emerging issue, particularly with the Alfalfa Weevil. “We’ve seen isolated pockets of heavy feeding,” Schaumberg explained. “If you haven’t cut your first crop yet, raising the cutting height can help mitigate damage. Additionally, true armyworms and cutworms have been detected, though their impact has been inconsistent due to the rains.”

Disease management is becoming a critical focus as well, especially with winter wheat. “We’re seeing diseases like powdery mildew and leaf diseases in the canopy. Timely fungicide application is crucial to protect these crops.”

Overall, the 2024 growing season is shaping up to be highly challenging compared to recent years. “Every growing season has its unique set of challenges. Last year, we faced drought but had the advantage of field accessibility. This spring, the challenge is timing our work around unpredictable weather windows. It’s important for farmers to stay positive and take breaks when necessary to be ready for those windows of opportunity.”

Farmers are also advised to stay in close contact with their seed salesmen to ensure they are planting appropriate day-length varieties of corn to avoid issues with wet corn during harvest. Adjusting crop rotation and planting strategies may also be necessary to maximize the growing season’s potential.