More Rain Could Sow Trouble For Late Corn, Soybean Planters

May 17, 2017

Indiana’s corn and soybean growers are getting seeds in the ground this week – but more rain on the way could put farmers in a difficult position.

As of Monday, 56 percent of the state’s projected corn crop and 23 percent of the projected soybean crop have been planted.

Purdue University soil compaction expert Gary Steinhardt, who studies how wet or unhealthy soil packs down and keeps nutrients, water and roots from moving, says heavy rain causes problems for farmers who’ve overworked their soil or driven on it too much.

“Then there are parts of the field that won’t drain very well because, historically, they’ve been compacted,” Steinhardt says. “I had a plot one time where we’d intentionally compacted a plot right over a tile line [which helps fields drain], and it held water just like a bathtub.”

He says Indiana’s soil wants to hold about 10 inches of water at a time, with an additional 10 inches needed for a good planting season. Southwestern Indiana saw 10 inches of rainfall at the end of April alone, according to state climate data.

“We’ve nicely got our soil recharged, so more is not helping us,” Steinhardt says.

And with the planting season waning, he says, farmers who waited to plant their crops or need to re-plant could run out of time to grow a full crop.

“Some parts of the field may be beyond redemption in that particular situation,” he says.

For those who planted before the rains, Steinhardt says drier conditions later in the summer growing season typically offset the excess moisture.