Late-winter moisture, flooding and low temperatures have kept many farmers out of their fields and delayed the planting of corn and other crops in Nebraska and parts of Iowa, officials said.
Just 2% of the expected corn crop has been planted in Nebraska, compared with the five-year average of 8% by the same date, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture report for the week ending Sunday. Just 4% of the Iowa crop has been planted, compared with the 10% averaged over the past five years.
As for Nebraska oats, 30% has been planted, which is well short of the 72% average by that date. The USDA said 48% of the expected Iowa oat crop has been planted — which is five days behind the average pace over the past five years.
Associate Nebraska climatologist Al Dutcher told The Grand Island Independent that the spring flooding is still affecting farmers eager to put seeds into the ground. In Iowa, the USDA's Brad Parks said Wednesday that standing water and ground frost have been blamed for planting delays.
Ag producers in both states were hit hard by the powerful late-winter storm that struck in mid-March.
The Nebraska Agriculture Department still estimates that the storm and flooding caused $400 million in livestock losses and $440 million in crop losses, spokeswoman Christin Kamm said. Iowa estimates its ag losses at more than $214 million, said Iowa Agriculture & Land Stewardship spokeswoman Keely Coppess.
The weather did allow for 4.5 days of fieldwork last week in Nebraska and 4.1 days in Iowa, the USDA said, compared with only 2.2 days in Nebraska and 1.9 days in Iowa the week before.
Nebraska soil conditions have been improved by the slightly warmer-than-average temperatures over the past 30 days, Dutcher said.
"It takes considerably more energy to get wet soils versus dry soils to warm; however, when they do warm up, wet soils hold on to the heat longer," Dutcher said. "This means that daily soil temperature extremes are less extreme with wetter soils."