I-80 Planting Tour: Farmers in Eastern Iowa Get Fast Start

April 20, 2016 12:00 PM

Iowa farmers are putting their planters in the field this week at a rapid pace. USDA says 13% of corn acres are planted in Iowa. That’s 10 points above the five-year average.

It’s the sign of a new season, stretching out, getting ready to conquer another field before a mid-week rain. “In my words, in my terms, it’s time to plant corn,” says Cedar Falls, Iowa, farmer Brent Judisch.

It’s quite the difference from the snow, sleet and rain earlier this month. “We went worried about getting in the field to thinking about how it’s time to go now,” he says.

He farms with his wife Lisa Judisch. “It’s good to be a family operation. She does a lot of the bookwork in the winter. In the spring, she’s in the tractor every day. It takes the pressure off me. I don’t have to be here. I don’t have to be there,” Brent says.

The two started kicking up the dust last week when Mother Nature gave them a window of nice weather. It’s a bonus on top of ‘ideal’ soil conditions, and planting is really moving. The Judisch family is already two-thirds done with corn and one-third done with beans.

“At about an inch deep, we have plenty of moisture. That’s more than enough to get the seed started. We had four inches of rain in November. We had five inches of rain in December. So, the moisture has held really well,” Brent says.

While the duo can’t sway the weather, they’re making sure the markets don’t control all of their farming decisions:They’re staying heavy on corn. “We have not changed that for about 10 years,” Brent says.

While the rotation is the same, the corn traits are different. On the acres "where we don’t have rootworm trouble and some other issues, we’ve been going back to a standard Round-up Ready corn without the extra stacks," Brent says. "We’re saving about $80 a bag, which is about $30 an acre."

In Lowden, Iowa, Brad Dircks is planning on a later planting start. 

“If I get started April 20, in all honesty, that’s ahead of the curve," Dircks says. "There have been a lot of years where I haven’t started to plant corn until May."

His area has received a little more precipitation than other spots in the state, including rain earlier in the week. “Conditions now are starting to get favorable. I think action will pick up here real soon,” he says.

Dircks says he’s planting about 15% less corn this year. It’s just how his rotations lie. “In general, I think there’s a movement to the corn and soybean rotation since prices are down,"  he says. "Corn-on-corn is more expensive, and it’s more work."

He’s not changing inputs, just shopping around a little more.

“I’m trying to find a little better price than I used to do. I’m hedging on the Board of Trade some, trying to lock in some type of profit. That’s pretty hard to do today,” Dircks says.

While it’s unknown what this year’s cycle may bring, farmers who are planting hope that a good start will grow into a profitable year. While they work toward harvest, though, they both are generating off-farm income. Brent Judisch is a John Deere representative, and Dircks isolates wheat for a dairy and works for a chemical company, raising regulated genetic seed plots. Both say the additional pay is helpful during this period of lower crop prices.


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