By Dar Danielson

Good weather allowed many farmers to get out into the fields last week, including Iowa Ag Secretary Bill Northey, who farms near Spirit Lake.

“I think most of Iowa saw folks out in the field — maybe a little less across northern Iowa than central and southern Iowa — but we are getting some planting started out there,” Northey says. “And it’s earlier than it sometimes is. As of Monday, we had 13 percent of Iowa’s corn planted. Probably a little bit more got in on Monday before folks got rained out — but a nice early start.”

Northey says he has half of his planting done. The start of planting varies year-to-year, depending on the weather, but Northey says there’s always optimism as farmers get the process started.

“They are excited about being able to get out there and get some work done and be able to giver their crop a full season to be able to grow and good conditions to plant in,” Northey ways. The farm economy has been struggling recently and Northey says that’s something farmers will watch as the season moves ahead.

“Prices are down from where we’ve seen, although we’ve seen some bump up in those prices in the last several weeks for various reasons and that always gives you a little bit of hope that it will come around, “Northey says. “When you do the numbers with an average yield and these kinds of prices, some of this corn is going into the ground that looks like might be just breaking even, or maybe losing some money. So, that’s a little different situation than the last three or four years.”

The impact of farming on water quality is something that is getting a lot of attention as farmers take to the fields. Northey says farmers are looking more and more to no-till methods to address that issue. “Increasingly folks are doing less tillage and the planters are able to handle the residue of last year’s crop. The seeds are able to handle the cooler soils when folks don’t till,” Northey says.

Northey says there are a lot of benefits to the no-till methods. “It does save you some dollars as far as cost of tillage. But it also holds that soil in place a little bit better. Most folks feel like it will add some biological activity to the soil if you don’t till it,” Northey says. He says holding the soil in place and preventing erosion is important.

“With that soil as it moves, you end up with phosphorus moving — a little bit of nitrogen as well — but phosphorus can move with that soil, and that can be a problem for our lakes as well. And so that really causes folks to be able do things that the folks that do it believe that it’s good for the soil, good for the crop,” Northey says.

Northey says the Iowa Department of Agriculture in conjunction with Iowa Learning Farms and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, have put together information to help farmers. The fact-sheet has information on planter settings, fertilizer considerations, weed control and other considerations to help farmers successfully use no-till and strip-till in their operation. The information can be found at