The first corn seeds got into the ground last week, but weather has kept most farmers out of the fields. The U-S-D-A’s week crop report says there were just three days suitable for fieldwork last week thanks to wet weather. Soil temperatures that are warm enough for planting have also been an issue. But there were some farmers who pulled the planter into the field — and two percent of the new crop is now in the ground. The crop report says this year’s start is five days behind last year and three days behind the five-year average for corn planting.
Recent rainfall events have dampened the fields and grassland areas to the point where the Shelby County Emergency Management Agency has reduced the field and grassland fire danger index from High to LOW.
Even though the fire danger rating is Low, you are asked to call-in and report your burning projects to Shelby County Dispatch at 712-755-2124, and, notify your local Fire Chief.
A study finds record ethanol and biodiesel production in Iowa in 2016 had a significant impact on the state’s economy. The report says renewable fuels supported more than 42-thousand Iowa jobs and generated 2-point-3-billion dollars in household income for Iowans. Study author John Urbanchuk says because the fuels are produced in the state, impacts on the state economy are even more important.
“What makes the industry so important to Iowa is that virtually all of the feed stock that’s used by that industry is produced in the state,” Urbanchuk says. “The economic impact, all the dollars spent on that stuff, circulate back through the Iowa economy. That’s a bit more important for Iowa than it is for some of the other states.”
He says the amount of ethanol that was exported to other countries also helped the state’s economy. “We looked at the volume of export on the U.S. side and figured Iowa’s share of production roughly represents that of the trade and calculated what the impact, coming from trade is,” Urbanchuk says, “and that is not inconsequential. It points out the fact that foreign trade is not only a fairly large component but a growing component of economic activity for Iowa as well.”
Urbanchuk says while ethanol production expanded in Iowa in 2016, biodiesel expansion was even greater. “We saw a very small increase in total U.S. ethanol capacity in 2016,” he says. “Iowa’s capacity also expanded in terms of production capacity and that helped them a little bit as well.”
Iowa’s 43 ethanol plants produced a combined record of 4.1-billion gallons of ethanol last year. The study was by conducted by A-B-F Economics and was commissioned by the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association.
The warmer weather has people itching to get outside — especially those who like to hunt what some consider an Iowa delicacy. Iowa State University plant pathology professor, Mark Gleason, says morel mushrooms will start to pop out as the ground warms. “I don’t know if there’s a specific temperature, but this is about the time right now. Some people say when you get bud break on certain types of plants — it depends on the year — this year we’ve been warm and cool,” Gleason says.
The warm weather is key along with some rain. “We also have enough soil moisture to push them out of the ground,” Gleason says, “so in dry years we tend to have poor morel stands. In moister, wetter years with more rainfall, we tend to have more.” The temperatures so far this spring have fluctuated, but Gleason says once a warm day pops the mushrooms out, they are there until found or they dry up.
“It’s a one way trip. Once they are out they don’t go back in. They’ll enlarge a bit as they come out of the ground and reach their standard size,” Gleason says. “There’s five species of morels in the state and each of those has its own characteristic size The smallest one is probably the gray — which is the first to come out of the ground — and the largest is the last one which kind of a golden color and can be six or eight inches, even larger.”
Leaves popping out of the ground are a key signal the morels are there for the picking. Gleason says many people look for dead elm trees as the prime growing spot, but that’s not the only place they flourish. “But also other trees, and that area around the root zone of other trees can work, alive or dead. So looking in woodlands is good, but they will grow in meadows and things like that. But more often they are in association with some decayed wood or buried wood. So, it might be a decayed root or something like that,” Gleason says.
You might think asking veteran morel hunters for the best places to find them — but he says the people that are most successful don’t like to share their hot spots. “Most people are very reluctant to do that,” he says. “Unless you are related to them or they like you, it might be hard information to get.”
There are a lot of stories or tales about how to help the morels flourish. One is to use a mesh bag that allows the morel spores to drop out as you hike through the woods — providing seed for a new generation. “Well, there are people who strongly believe that. I’m skeptical of that,” Gleason says. “Because, when morels are picked they are very, very young and the spores haven’t formed yet. If you are waiting for a morel to form spores, it’s probably well beyond the age where you’d want to eat it.”
If you do decide to give mushroom hunting a try, Gleason says you have to remember they can easily blend into the surroundings. “You kind of have to train your eye to them a bit. They are easy to overlook,” Gleason explains. “It’s possible to walk through a wooded area and just overlook the morels. But once your eye gets trained to what a morel looks like amongst other spring plants — then it’s easier to spot.”
Gleason says the morel season can vary across the state depending the weather conditions.
The recent warmer temperatures and other signs of spring have encouraged a lot of Iowans to schedule outdoor getaways. Staff at Iowa’s state parks have been busy preparing for another camping season. Todd Coffelt is chief of state parks for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. “Park staff around the state have been busy turning on the water, so we can get the facilities up and running,” Coffelt says.
Shower and restroom buildings in most of Iowa’s state parks will have the water on for the first time this weekend, so they’re ready for campers. Iowa has more than 4,700 state park campsites for motorhomes, travel trailers and other recreational vehicles.
There are also 92 cabins available to rent in 19 state parks. Some of the newest cabins are located in southeast Iowa’s Washington County. “Our most recent ones are six, modern, year-round cabins at Lake Darling State Park and they have been very popular,” Coffelt says.
Cabins and campsites are available for reservation online ( http://www.iowadnr.gov/Places-to-Go/State-Parks/Make-a-Reservation ). Coffelt is encouraging Iowans to check out some recent improvements to a handful of state parks, including one in southeast Iowa’s Davis County. “The Lake Wapello State Park campground opened late in the season last year,” Coffelt said. “With the water turned on, it should be good to go for people to take a look at a lot of that work they’ve done to make those sites more organized and easier to back into with a trailer…and ultimately to enjoy that fishing resource they have in the lake.”
Nearly all of the state parks with campgrounds will offer special programs or activities on May 6, including fishing clinics, fun runs, volunteer projects, special hikes and demonstrations. Learn more at: www.iowastateparks.gov/campingkickoff.
Many farmers are anxious to start planting, but an Iowa State University crops specialist says farmers may want to wait at least another week for some warmer weather so the soil can warm up. Joel DeJong works in northwest Iowa and says you need soil temperatures above 50 degrees, and while the air temperature rose a little this past weekend, temperatures then dropped off.”We’ve had average daily temperatures significantly lower than 50 degrees the last couple of days. So, we’re starting to see that temperature drop. In almost all cases up here it is lower than 50. We use 50 as that starting point. We want it to be 50 degrees and warmer, to really get going, because it takes 50 degrees temperature for that seed to really do much of anything,” DeJong says.
DeJong says there were some farmers who had planted their corn by this time last year, and for some it worked out well, while others encountered some problems. “Sometimes the old timers tell me that we need a good warm rain. We really haven’t had a good warm rain to warm things up either. So, that’s part of the mix. The profile still remains fairly cool. It’s not awful though. We see lots of cases with today’s hybrids and today’s seed treatments, we can tolerate some cooler temperatures than we have historically,” DeJong says.
He says there was a lot of corn planted on the 11th and 12th of April last year, and most of that, particularly the western half of the area did pretty well. He says the research indicates April 15th through May 8th is a planting range where they’ll get from 98 to 100 percent of the typical yield if planting in good conditions. “We can extend that range from 95 to 100 percent range. You never know what each year is going to bring? Some we can expand that range, others we need to shrink that range a little. But that’s kind of the general,” DeJong says. ” We have a nice window of opportunity. Most producers only take about five…six…seven days to plant. We have some larger producers that take more. So, we’re really early, and more than likely in this part of the state, we will get that window of opportunity in that ideal time period again.”
The Iowa State University Crops Specialist says sometimes if farmers till their ground during wet conditions, it could lead to soil compacting, and the bottom of the disk zone getting smeared. “We need to be a little cautious with that. If its too wet and we smear that gets hard and dries out and then we have roots having trouble to penetrating that. So, we need to watch that zone a little bit too,” DeJong says.
The weekly crop report from the U-S-D-A released Monday show no planting yet in the state.
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A rule designed to protect the legal rights of farmers who grow chickens and hogs for the nation’s largest meat processors has been delayed by at least six months, halting an initiative rolled out in the final days of Barack Obama’s administration. The rule was first proposed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2010 but was finally rolled out in December and was set to take effect on April 22.
President Donald Trump’s administration announced the delay Wednesday to allow for more input. The rule would make it easier for farmers to sue companies they contract with over unfair or deceptive practices. Farmers who have waited years for the rule expressed disappointment. Poultry and pork industry trade groups say the rule will reduce competition and drive up meat prices.