Report Shows Good Progress on Small Grain Planting in Iowa

When Dan and Pat Kubik planted 25 acres of organic flax a little more than a week ago, the couple had their doubts.

CLUTIER, Iowa — When Dan and Pat Kubik planted 25 acres of organic flax a little more than a week ago, the couple had their doubts.

"A couple of times Dan just shook his head wondering 'what am I doing?'" Pat said.

It's the first time the Kubiks planted the small grain -- coveted by the health food industry for its heart-healthy oil -- on their 120-acre organic farm near Clutier. In fact, few farmers in Iowa plant flax, which used be a large cash crop around World War II.

Monday's U.S. Department of Agriculture Crops and Weather Report indicates the Kubiks are doing just fine. The report said small grain planting is well underway in the state, and ahead of schedule.

Flax is planted about the same time as other cool-season grains.

However, oats is the only one tracked by the report since there's not enough acres of other small grains like flax, barley and amaranth.

"I'm looking at it right now and I can see rows," Pat said as rain fell on their flax field Monday morning. "We were a little leery, but now since we can wee it coming up we're feeling a little better. We needed the rain. It was getting kind of dry."

The Kubiks plan to sell the crop to Spectrum Organics. The California company partnered with a company in Cherokee to build a flax processing plant.

While recruiting growers like the Kubiks earlier this year, Spectrum officials said they expect to pay 34 cents per pound for organic flax. A good crop will gross about twice as much money as conventional corn per acre, officials said.

Oat seedings are 73 percent complete as of Sunday, ahead of both last year's progress of 57 percent and the five-year average of 46 percent.

Iowa farmers intend to plant 240,000 acres of oats, a jump of 9 percent.

Nine percent of the oat crop has emerged, the report said.

Favorable weather conditions are allowing farmers to make strides with spring fieldwork. Primary seedbed preparations, which include applying anhydrous and disking or leveling corn stalks, are 55 percent complete.

Fertilizer applications are 73 percent finished.

Some corn planting has been reported, but not enough to report. Iowa farmers intend to plant 12.8 million acres of corn, up 1 percent from last year, and 10.3 million acres of soybeans, also up 1 percent.

George Cummins, Iowa State University Extension crop specialist, said black cutworm traps have been set in Northeast Iowa. Cutworms overwinter in southern states and return to Iowa on strong southerly winds. Traps are being monitored by volunteers so a computer model can predict hatching and initial feeding dates.

Thirty Asian soybean rust sentinel plots are also being organized in the state, Cummins said. Rust is an airborne fungus that can negatively impact yields.

"They'll be closely monitored to give early indication of ASR in the state," he wrote in Crop Notes, a periodic newsletter supplied to agronomic officials and the media.

Favorable soil moisture awaits crops this year, the report said. Topsoil statewide is rated 3 percent very short, 17 percent short, 76 percent adequate, with a 4 percent surplus.

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