DES MOINES, Iowa — It’s that time of year for farmers to start getting back into the fields as the growing season gets underway.

Warm stretches like we’ve seen this week are helping some farmers plant earlier than ever before.

Hardin county farmer Denny Friest is one of them. He says 15 years ago, April 15 would be the earliest he’d consider planting, but this year that debate began around the 5th of the month. He notes though that planting widely varies from year-to-year.

An earlier start to the growing season has led some to start planting soybeans around the same time as corn, Friest observes. He says that’s a dramatic change.

Friest’s experience is backed up by the numbers. Iowa State University Agronomist Mark Licht agrees that the growing season is starting a little earlier. He estimates that start is about three to five days earlier in the spring and a couple days longer in the fall.

Looking over the years, the growing season has lengthened by about 20 days over the last 50 years or so. Of course, this varies year-to-year, but it’s part of a notable trend.

An earlier planting season isn’t always beneficial. The spring months are also the wettest months of the year, notes Licht, which can make planting tricky. If a spring is especially wet, there’s essentially no benefit to an early growing season.

Higher average temperatures may open the door to growing different kinds of crops, but that too has a catch. It can be challenging to find buyers for more niche crops. For that reason, Licht expects corn and soybeans to be the dominant crops in Iowa for a while.

Whether planting season comes in early April or early May, Friest feels there’s no time of year quite like it.

“It’s springtime in Iowa, this is a great time of year to really get out there and plant your seeds and watch everything grow.”

Denny Friest, Hardin County Farmer