Farmers play waiting game for spring planting
WILLMAR -- Thanks to last weekend's spring snowstorm, area farmers will need to wait until the end of the week for soil conditions to improve enough for field work.
Larry Konsterlie, of Willmar, estimated he's about a week behind in field work this year and hasn't gotten the opportunity to do anything yet.
"I would have liked to have been out there four or five days ago," he said Monday afternoon, adding that he's not tremendously worried yet about lost time in getting the crop in the ground.
"But, in another week, it will be of more concern, because of the yield potential we'll have lost."
University of Minnesota research shows farmers can lose as much as a half-bushel of yield for each day of delay in corn planting after April 28, according to yield data analysis from Dale Hicks, a former corn extension specialist with the Extension Service.
"Statistically, we are going to be behind. If we get beyond the fifth of May, we could take the top end of the crop," said farmer Doug Albin of Clarkfield. But, "with some warm weather and timely showers, (the crops) could do just fine."
According to the Minnesota Weekly Crop-Weather Report released Monday, the state's farmers had just 1 percent of the corn crop planted last week, compared to 20 percent last year and an average of 27 percent over the past five years.
Through Sunday, 3 percent of land for corn planting had been prepared, compared with 29 percent last year and a 41-percent five-year average.
Farmers planting sugar beets had 10 percent of the crop planted by Sunday, compared to 27 percent at this time last year and a five-year average of 42 percent. Spring wheat was 6 percent planted, as opposed to 15 percent in 2007 and 33 percent over five years.
Over the five-year average, farmers had 1 percent of soybeans planted and 10 percent of the land prepared for bean planting. This year, 1 percent of the land is prepared and none of the beans are in the ground.
Albin reported Monday that he had almost finished planting wheat before the weekend's storms, which included rain and six inches of snow. He also expected it would be later in the week, at least, before conditions improved enough for field work.
Another challenge, both farmers say, is that the delay in corn planting will push back soybean planting. Albin noted that the first-cutting crop of alfalfa will likely be delayed so that there will be three cuttings instead of four crops this year.
Nationally, farmers in the 18 states that planted 91 percent of the nation's corn crop had planted just 10 percent of the crop, compared with 20 percent last year and a five-year average of 35 percent. That information was released Monday in the USDA's crop progress report. The report also showed slower-than-average planting progress on spring wheat, rice, cotton and small grains.
The benefit to a spring filled with snowstorms is that no location in Minnesota is rated "very short" of topsoil moisture. According to the state report, just 3 percent is rated short, with 60 percent ranking adequate and 37 percent with surplus moisture.
The soil moisture means the crop will have the opportunity for a good start, the farmers say. But, the soil first has to be worked and the seed planted. "It's going to be a mad dash to the finish line, and we all got a late start," Albin said.