Are we done planting in central Michigan?

The unprecedented 2019 cool and wet planting season has many producers and agronomists looking for answers to questions we have not thought about before.

Flooding in field
Standing water still common in many fields in the central regions of Michigan. Photo by Fred Springborn, MSU Extension.

For the most part the answer is yes, we are done planting corn for dry grain harvest in central Michigan. The latest USDA Crop Progress report issued June 17, 2019, indicated the Michigan corn crop is 84% planted. This likely includes acres that have been declared as prevented plant. I only know of a few producers that will still plant a small number of acres for grain production as uncertainty about the rest of the growing season, especially the amount of growing degree days available, looms. Changing to very early maturing hybrids, e.g., 79-day or less corn, should be done with some degree of caution. Some of these hybrids will perform very well for their early maturity and just like some of our full season hybrids, some may not.

Cattle feeders who still need forage and corn silage acres should consider continuing to plant corn for silage. The chances are increasing that the silage will be immature when harvested, but it may be as good of an option for tonnage per acre and quality, as is available. There are various cover crops that could also be planted such as sorghum-sudangrass, sorghum and small grains (oats and spring barley). Talk to your nutritionist about how these alternatives might fit in your ration. Early indications are that seed for some of these crops may be in short supply as they are popular options for many this year.

Cover crop seed should be selected with a degree of caution. Poor quality, unprocessed cover crop seed may not germinate and perform well. It may also carry with it multiple species of weed seeds that could introduce a new weed species to your farm. If you are considering planting cover crops on prevented plant acres for forage harvest later, be sure to keep in touch with your crop insurance representative as to rules for harvest.

Soybeans will continue to be planted in the coming days as soil conditions allow. For producers with crop insurance, we have now passed the final plant date for soybeans in Michigan, which was June 15. We are now in the late plant period. As of the June 17 USDA Crop Progress Report, about one-half of the Michigan soybean crop is yet to be planted. Consider the impact on disease and nematode issues if you are considering planting soybeans on acres intended for corn that were soybeans in 2018.

Dry bean planting is running behind its normal pace. Just 17% of the crop is planted in Michigan as of June 17. Normally, we would be more than one-half done. To avoid root rot issues, soil conditions need to be warm and moist, not cool and wet, to promote rapid emergence and early growth. The weather over the next seven-to-10 days will be critical for this crop.

Regardless of the crop you are considering planting, consider the cost of mudding in a crop. The cost of soil compaction will be paid not just this year when soils finally do dry out, but also in following crop seasons.

No crop insurance? You are not alone. I have talked with a number of other producers who cut crop insurance this year for a number of reasons. If you could not get your crops planted, contact your local Farm Serve Agency (FSA) office and certify your prevented plant acres by July 15 (this deadline was recently extended from June 20). Certifying these acres may make you eligible for future assistance programs.

Review any forward contracts you may have to deliver commodity this fall. If you might not have enough production to cover your commitments, begin addressing the situation. Some contracts may have provisions for weather issues in them, but many do not.

Finally, focus on what you can control—or at least influence. The amount and frequency of rainfall and the persistent cool temperatures are out of our control. Take time to consider what has gone right, not only in farming, but around you. There have been many bright spots in agriculture over the past decade and a half, including years of record profitability. For many of us here in central Michigan, we were spared the full effect of the drought in 2012 that dramatically lowered corn yields just south of us in southern Michigan and in the Corn Belt.

This is not the first widespread weather disaster we have faced: The fall floods of 1986, which destroyed many crops just before harvest; the drought of 1988 that significantly reduced yield throughout Michigan; and the cool summer followed by early September frost in 1992, which froze many crops well before maturity. While the planting conditions of the 2019 season are unprecedented, we have had tough years before. Hang in there.

Additional resources

MSU Extension offers additional educational resources and programs to help farmers as they deal with delayed planting seasons at

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