Soil Moisture Concerns Farmers Preparing To Plant Crops

Apr 11, 2018

Indiana farmers are becoming concerned that recent precipitation – both rain and snow – will delay this year’s planting date.

Southern Indiana farmers should be out in field by now preparing for planting but the damp soil is postponing operations. Indiana Farm Bureau spokesman Bob White says the longer the delay, the greater the concern.

“If we talk in two weeks and we still got rain in the forecast, they can’t get in the fields, they haven’t been in the fields," says White. "That frustration level will just gradually rise.”

White says lingering wintry temperatures could also make it challenging for crops to begin growing once they’re in the ground. He says farmers normally wait until soil is at least 50 degrees before planting. White explains a simple test farmers are doing to determine whether the ground is ready for them to plant by picking up a handful of dirt.

“If you can make a ball and it stays as a ball, doesn’t crumble on you, that’s too damp,” says White.

He says there’s a risk if farmers try to drive over the soil when it’s too damp.

“You start a compaction problem where you compress the ground so much that it becomes hard and the emergence of the plants won’t occur with regularity,” White says.

White has a farm just north of Lafayette and reflects on a similar issue happened last year.

“Last year it took a while for everybody to get there crop in because of the rain and so it’s a struggle every year and each year Mother Nature throws something different at you,” says White.

Every week the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service for Indiana releases a weekly crop progress and condition report.