What’s going on in Ag? With the cold, wet spring, getting crops planted has been a slow process for farmers across the state.
According to the USDA Nebraska crop progress report, corn, soybeans, winter wheat, sorghum and oats are all behind in percent planted compared to last year figures. As of May 12, Nebraska has planted 46 percent of its corn, last year at this time we were sitting at 68 percent planted. We are currently well behind the five-year average of 72 percent planted for corn. It is not surprising with late planting that corn emergence is also behind with simply 9 percent of the crop having emerged, while last year we were looking at 23 percent, with 26 percent being the average.
Similarly, soybeans are getting a late start thanks to spring conditions, with 20 percent planted for the state of Nebraska, behind 37 percent last year and a 32 percent average. Winter wheat in the state is behind the 12 percent average with 2 percent headed. These are state averages, with pockets across the state being at various stages. Farmers are feeling the pressure to get corn in as the final planting date for crop insurance is May 25 for Nebraska, with the late planting period ending on June 14. Soybeans have a final planting date for crop insurance of June 10, with the late planting period ending on July 5.
Last week, I had the opportunity to visit a farm south of Ravenna, Nebraska, bordering the South Loop River. Like many farmers, they are left wondering what to do with all the sand deposited on their land. In a 20-plus acre pasture, the sand deposits ranged from a few inches to a few feet. The South Loop River changed its course due to the floodwaters. The river now runs where the neighbor’s alfalfa field used to exist, the flooding left a 5 ft. deep sandbar where the river used to flow. Unfortunately, grasses have a hard time emerging through more than two to four inches of sand. One opinion in reclaiming flooded pastures is having the sand removed or leveled, the USDA – Farm Service Agency Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) maybe an option to help with funding http://disaster.fsa.usda.gov. It is important to get the land back into production as soon as possible before the weeds take hold. One possibility to start this process, if sand removal is not realistic, is to reseed directly into the sand. Warm-season annuals such as Foxtail millet, Sudangrass, and Sorghum-sudan hybrids can be planted from late May to August, these are grasses with good regrowth potential for mid and late summer grazing. The seeding period for cool-season annuals such as Oats has passed for early summer grazing, although oats could be sown in late summer. The planting window for Rye and Wheat is late August through September for early spring grazing next year.
A few pounds of perennial cool-season grasses such as Smooth Bromegrass or Intermediate Wheatgrass could be incorporated if planting in April or late August to help restore the pasture. If spring has passed, a mix of warm-season native grasses, which are adapted to sand, might be a good route, as they can be sown from spring to early summer. These grasses included Sand bluestem, Sand lovegrass, Prairie sandreed, Little bluestem, Switchgrass, and Indiangrass. After a few inches of growth has occurred, applying nitrogen could help establish the plants. It is important to graze these pastures cautiously, ensuring the grasses have a chance to establish themselves. There is always the option to leave the pasture, as is, however it would take roughly 10 to 15 years before the pasture would return to grass.
• Nebraska Farm Hotline/Rural Response Hotline: 800-464-0258
• Nebraska Family Helpline: 888-866-8660
If you have any questions, please contact me at 1-(402)-367-7410 or by email at Melissa.Bartels@unl.edu.