Serving Minnesota and Northern Iowa.

Planting progress varies greatly across state

By Janet Kubat Willette

Date Modified: 05/20/2013 9:31 AM

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Bob Worth finished planting his corn last week.

The Lake Benton farmer started planting on May 2, the day a portion of southern Minnesota was digging out from up to a foot and a half of snow.

"Would you believe we never got an ounce of snow, no rain," Worth said.

Instead of moving snow, he and his son planted corn. The ground was cold, but the clock and calendar said it was time to go.

"I have not dug the first planted corn, but I am sure there's a sprout, the ground was almost 50 degrees," Worth said.

The corn should germinate well, as the top six to eight inches are moist. They received about 20 inches of snow in one week in April.

But, he's concerned about subsoil moisture. If the area doesn't receive plenty of rain during the growing season, it will be a challenge to raise a good crop. The subsoil moisture was diminished last year and the area remains in a drought as classified by the Drought Monitor.

They received an inch of rain on May 8 and it was raining on May 9.

"We need the rain, we are extremely dry right now," Worth said.

Worth farms with his son, who had 400 acres left to plant as of May 9, but he said they were lucky. The fields they were planting were well-tiled and ready to be planted. Other fields around the area still have snow in the fence lines.

As soon as his son finishes planting corn, they will move to soybeans. That will take about a week of dry weather and then it will be time to start spraying.

Worth, who's farmed since 1970, said he's planted a lot of corn in June. Before the chemical revolution of the late 1970s and early 1980s, they didn't start planting corn until late May because they controlled weeds with mechanical cultivation. The ground had to be warmer than 50 degrees or the corn seed would rot in the soil, he said.

Today's hybrids are 20 to 30 times better, Worth said. The technology from seed companies has allowed farmers to plant earlier.

Last year was among the earliest. He and his son were done planting everything on May 4.

Corn was going in the ground in the St. Cloud, Morris, Willmar and Montevideo area last week, University of Minnesota Extension educator Jodi DeJong-Hughes said. Quite a few fields were planted and farmers were making progress.

Farmers are watching the calendar and getting nervous so some may be planting in soil that isn't fit. Mudding it in could cause a lot of trouble, she said.

Liz Stahl, a University of Minnesota Extension crops educator based in Worthington, said there's a little corn is planted in the area of southwestern Minnesota where she works.

The area is still in severe to moderate drought with a deficit in the soil moisture profile. The area had no moisture in the soil profile going into winter, which was a huge concern. They received their most recent rain on May 9.

"We needed the moisture definitely, we were going to be in a world of hurt if we didn't get the moisture," Stahl said.

The topsoil moisture as measured at Southwest Research and Outreach Center in Lamberton on May 1 showed a 1.1 inch moisture deficit in the upper three feet of the soil profile. The upper five feet had a 1.6 inch deficit, when compared to long-term averages. Both were improved from this time a year ago.

The silver lining to the late planting is that the area is receiving much-needed moisture, Stahl said.

Farmers have been planting outside of the area that received snow on May 2, said Extension educator Dave Nicolai. A lot of corn has been going in, as well as canning peas. Sugar beets will need to go in soon.

Nicolai says farmers should plant full season hybrids through May 20. Full season hybrids typically yield more than shorter season hybrids.

In southeast Minnesota, there isn't much planting progress to report, said University of Minnesota Extension educator Ryan Miller.

Farmers are hauling manure where and if they can. He planted pea plots at Southern Research and Outreach Center at Waseca and Rosemount Research and Outreach Center on May 7. But, fieldwork is at a standstill south of Northfield and east of Waseca.

"We just need to get some drying weather," Miller said.