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Still Wet and Cold? What Are the Options?

University of Minnesota Extension, Stearns County News
May 14, 2014         
Source:  Dan Martens, Extension Educator
University of Minnesota Extension
Stearns, Benton & Morrison Counties

Release Date:  May 19, 2014

Contact:  Dan Martens
(320) 968-5077; (800) 964-4929

Still Wet and Cold? What Are the Options?
By Dan Martens, University of Minnesota Extension

FOLEY, Minn. (05/14/2014) —Farmers on sandy soils that dry out better after a rain have gotten a fair amount of corn planted in some areas. Farmers on loamy soils with poor drainage have not planted much of anything where larger amounts of rain have fallen over the last 3-4 weeks.

THE WEATHER. I don’t have the “official” rain gauge in Foley. I measured 5 inches of rain during the last 2 weeks of April and almost 3 inches more during the first 2 weeks of May. For loam soils with limited drainage, fields are probably as wet as they were last year at this time. Some of last year’s experience might be useful in making decisions this year.

Mark Seeley, University of Minnesota Extension Climatologist, was quoted in May 15 edition of Agri-News as saying there are some signs that the weather could warm up and dry out the last half of May. The April 13 National Weather Service forecast for May 19-23 listed the possibility of more normal temperature and above normal precipitation. This forecast for May 21-27 indicated better odds for below normal temperature and above normal precipitation. That doesn’t seem as hopeful as Seeley’s notes. 

You can make your own guess; and we’ll find out day by day. It seems good to anticipate the possibilities, evaluate the options, learn what you need to, and be ready to make decisions as we see how things unfold. Farmers do that a lot. It’s a regular task for most of us in some way.  

YIELD POTENTIAL might play into how farmers evaluate crop production budgets and options where planting is severely delayed.

One University of Minnesota Extension publication lists CORN planted on the following dates with the corresponding yield potential compared to May 1 planting dates: May 20 at 88%; May 25 at 86%; May 30 at 83%; Jun 4 at 77%; June 9 at 71%; June 14 65%; June 19 at 59%. It lists potential yield for SOYBEANS planted on May 20 at 94%; May 25 at 91%; May 30 at 87%; June 4 at 82%; June 9 at 76%; June 14 at 70%; June 19 at 64%; and June 24 at 57%. Actual results, of course, depend on what the rest of the growing season is like.

A 10 or 20% loss can be significant. If 20% of the yield is lost, that’s 20% of the gross income. That might be all or more than all of the net income – depending on markets and expenses. 

HYBRID ADJUSTMENTS. For corn planted from May 25 to May 31, University of Minnesota Extension Corn Agronomist Jeff Coulter suggests planting hybrids that are 5 to 7 maturity units earlier than full season varieties for your area. For corn planted after May 31, this might be 8-15 units earlier for June 1-10 and 15 units earlier for June 11-15. This is a based on the goal of getting mature grain for harvest. 

For soybeans, the recommendation is to stay with full season varieties until June 10. From June 10 to about June 20, use varieties with a relative maturity that is 0.5 units shorter. If you would normal plant soybeans with a relative maturity of 1.7, you would cut back to around 1.2. From June 20 to 30, use varieties that are 1 full unit less than full season for your farm.

For both corn and soybeans, this may depend on whether you’re already stretching the limits for maturity on your farm. Your past experience counts.

TILLAGE. Keep tillage as shallow as possible if soil is wetter than preferred. Compaction problems will be deeper as tillage is deeper.

PLANTING DEPTH for corn should still be at least 1.5 to 1.75 inches after the soil settles to get a better root system and to prevent injury problems with some soil applied herbicides.

CROP INSURANCE. Farmers should understand with their crop insurance agents how crop insurance plays into late, replant, or prevented planting decisions. Each crop has a final “regular coverage” last planting date. In our area, this is May 31 for corn and June 10 for soybeans. For oats, this date is May 15 in Stearns and Benton County and May 31 in Morrison County. You can still plant after this date. The crop insurance protection level drops 1% for each day planted after this date to a maximum of a 25% reduction.

Livestock producers are primarily looking for ways to provide feed. Last year, some dairy and beef producers were still planting corn for corn silage in the first week of July. Some farmers planted forage sorghums, Sudan grass or other crops for some of their feed as things got really late. Some land might be planted to soybeans with the idea of using cash sales to purchase feed.

IF…IF fields stay wet, some farmers might consider filing for prevented planting payments, if they are not able to plant the crop by the “regular coverage” last planting date. Farmers should understand clearly with their crop insurance agent the criteria, deadlines, how payments are calculated, and what you can and can’t do with the land. The deadline might be within 72 hours after the last “regular” planting date or at some point during the late planting period. Federal Crop Insurance officials determine if weather conditions in a particular area merit eligibility for prevented planting coverage.

Under one scenario, if I read the crop insurance bulletin correctly, the prevented planting payment is calculated as 60% x the insurance coverage level. The bushel value has been set at $4.62 for corn and $11.36 for soybeans for 2014. Crop insurance officials have the “official” information.

The farm has to have 20% prevented planting acres or 20 acres, whichever is less. Check this with your crop insurance rep. Calculations are likely different for farms with enterprise units compared to optional units. Prevented planting payments are not just money the bank. Some of this money will be used to pay for rent, loans, crop inputs already purchased, crop insurance premiums, weed control and other care of the land.

Check promptly with your insurance agent PRIOR to any replanting – if that becomes an issue.


Daniel Martens
Extension Educator, Ag Production Systems
(320) 968-5077
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