DES MOINES — Iowa corn farmers who were at least two weeks behind the typical planting schedule earlier this month have narrowed that gap to just three days, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture report on Monday.

About 86% of the state’s corn crop had been planted as of Sunday after back-to-back weeks of favorable weather for much of the state. That slightly trails the five-year average of 89% but is a vast improvement from two weeks ago.

“With near-normal conditions across Iowa last week, farmers continued to make strong planting progress while dodging scattered showers and thunderstorms,” said Mike Naig, the state’s agriculture secretary. “Given this favorable weather pattern, corn planting is nearing completion.”

On May 8, only 14% of the corn crop had been planted because of persistent rainfall and cooler-than-normal temperatures since mid April, when farmers generally start planting.

Iowa’s farmers have the capacity to plant more than 1 million acres per day, and they plant a total of about 13 million acres each year.

The south-central part of the state has lagged the most because of continued rainfalls.

“We’ve definitely had more rain keeping us a little wetter,” said Clarabell Probasco, a field agronomist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who monitors some of those counties. “Right now, a lot of people are good and they’re running, but we’ve got more rain coming.”

About 69% of corn has been planted in that region, whereas 94% has been planted in northwest Iowa, the USDA report said.

Many farmers have likely missed the prime planting window for maximum yields, according to ISU research, but it’s crucial to get seed in the ground before June to avoid an accelerated drop in yield potential.

Soybean planting, which had also lagged, is now one day ahead of the five-year average but 12 days behind last year, the USDA report said.

Farmers have been planting soybeans earlier in recent years, said Greg Thessen, director of the USDA’s National Statistical Service for the Upper Midwest. ISU research has shown that earlier planting can boost yields despite the slower germination that accompanies cooler soil temperatures. The best temperature for soybeans is 77 degrees.

Iowa Capital Dispatch is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Iowa Capital Dispatch maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Kathie Obradovich for questions: Follow Iowa Capital Dispatch on Facebook and Twitter.

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