High rain, river levels cause farmers headaches

T-R PHOTO BY ADAM SODDERS - While some areas have seen more moisture than others after heavy rains earlier this week, many fields around the Iowa River now have standing water like this one just north of Marshalltown along Iowa Highway 14. Iowa State University field agronomist Meaghan Anderson said standing water can be a serious issue for corn and soybeans.

While weather forecasts call for a cease to the near-constant rain that pounded central Iowa in the last week, farmers may have concerns about the damage done by all that water.

Iowa State University Extension field agronomist Meaghan Anderson said the rain may have helped less-mature crops fill in their grain, but larger plants may have suffered.

“The rainfall and cooler temperatures will slow grain drying and may cause issues with ear rots, stalk rots and delaying harvest when some would prefer to be able to harvest as soon as the crop is ready,” she said. “Farmers should be checking corn fields for ear rots and stalk rots in order to prioritize fields for harvest; we don’t want corn to unnecessarily go down in the field and be unharvested this fall.”

Anderson had a more positive message for soybeans in the area.

“Some counties had issues with soybeans lodging due to the wind and rain, which will slow harvest, but I can’t say I’ve heard of that in Marshall County in particular,” she said.

Lodging occurs when, because of factors like wind and rain, crops’ stems are displaced.

Near Marshalltown, the Iowa River swelled earlier this week and peaked at over 18 feet Friday. From the Iowa Highway 14 roadway, water could be seen standing in various fields next to the river Friday.

At a certain height, Anderson said such standing water can be devastating to crops.

“When grain is flooded — corn fields flooded over the ears, soybean pods underwater — it is considered adulterated and cannot be sold to commercial facilities,” she said.

Anderson suggested farmers should check their crops for signs of rot and prioritize those sections of their fields first for harvest.

“Farmers can push plants over about 30 degrees from vertical and find the percentage of plants that do not return to vertical,” she said. “If more than 10-15 percent of plants randomly checked in fields … fail to return to vertical or bend over when pushed, that field should be prioritized for harvest.”

And harvest should be arriving within the next several weeks. Anderson said “time will tell” on how productive a harvest central Iowa farmers have.

“I’d like the rain to stop, so the crop that is mature can dry down and farmers can get out in the field to start harvest,” she said. “Wind, lower humidities and warm temperatures are good for in-field drying, but we also don’t want to risk leaving the crop out in the field too long this year.”

Anderson said it may be necessary for some farmers to harvest corn wetter than they would prefer and then dry the grain in bins. That could prevent large field losses, she said.

For more information on agriculture, visit https://www.extension.iastate.edu/topic/food-and-environment

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Contact Adam Sodders at (641) 753-6611 or asodders@timesrepublican.com