Wet weather delays planting

With heavy rains and flooding hitting much of the Midwest, this year is shaping up to be the opposite of last year for some areas of the U.S.

Last year’s drought was the worst in years, devastating crops and forcing livestock producers to cull their herds as pastures dried up and feed prices skyrocketed. Its effects were compounded by an outbreak of aflatoxin, which is produced by molds that thrive in hot and dry conditions, rendering large portions of the corn crop unfit for feed.

This year, excessive rainfall has caused significant flooding in many areas. In others, it simply has made the ground too wet to plant crops such as corn, which typically is planted in April.Last year, about 26 percent of the corn crop had already been planted in the top corn-producing U.S. states by April 21. This year, only about 4 percent of the corn crop has been planted as of April 21, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Although ideal planting windows vary slightly from state to state, in general corn yield potential is reduced if planting occurs past the first week of May. Late-planted corn also tends to retain more moisture, leading to increased drying costs in the fall, according to a Michigan State University (MSU) Extension article.

Additionally, planting too late can damage soil structure, leading to a range of issues that could reduce yield, such as reduced soil aeration, less drought tolerance and impeded root growth, according to MSU.

Cool, damp conditions also can lead to the proliferation of another toxin-producing mold, Fusarium graminearum, which produces deoxynivalenol, or DON. F. graminearum affects cereal commodities such as wheat, corn, barley and ensilages and, unlike the molds that produce aflatoxin, prefers cooler, wetter conditions. DON can cause serious issues if present in animal feed, especially for swine. Its effects include vomiting, feed refusal, diarrhea, gastroenteritis, immunosuppression and blood disorders.

Want some extra reading? Check out this article from NPR’s The Salt on the effects the wet weather is having on planting.

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