Weather helps farmer plant oats early
By Heather Thorstensen
Date Modified: 04/05/2012 1:58 PM
KENYON, Minn. — Unusually warm weather has resulted in the earliest planting date for oats in a long time on a farm south of Wanamingo.
Gene Bang, his 25-year-old son, Adam, and Howard Quimby planted 30 acres of oats on March 19. Bang farms in partnership with Howard and his brother, Robert Quimby, at the Quimbys' farm.
Records kept on their grain drill's cover go back to 1957 and show no earlier planting date.
Most years, oats were planted on the farm around mid-April, making this year about a month ahead of schedule.
"Things are changing," said Bang, who has worked on the farm since he was in high school. "It seems like things are getting earlier."
Bang decided to get in the fields early partly because he heard of other people that were planting. He also checked the forecast, the buds on leaves and changing colors of the grass.
Conditions looked right once he got in the field.
"It was perfect, it was just nice and dry and mellow," he said. "You couldn't ask for any better."
The oats will be used as feed for the farm's 40 registered Aryshire cows. The oat straw will be used as bedding for the herd.
Oats are cool germinating crop, but farmers need to wait until the soil temperature about four inches below the surface reaches 50 degrees before planting corn and soybeans. Corn typically starts going in around early April.
"Everybody is anxious to get out there," said Christian Lilienthal, a farmer and the University of Minnesota Extension agriculture production systems educator in Nicollet County.
This year is presenting a unique situation for farmers, he said. Normally, spring rains threaten to delay farmers from getting in the fields. This year, early warm temperatures and dry conditions will make farmers happy to let the rains come for a couple weeks.
"We are in a pretty big drought," Lilienthal said of statewide conditions. "We're somewhere, for the majority of the state, just shy of half of a foot under where we should be for rainfall."
Because of the lack of moisture last fall, some farmers may have put off applying nitrogen fertilizer in the form of anhydrous ammonia on their fields, and the nice weather is giving them a chance to do that now.
"I think there is going to be quite a bit of nitrogen applied now in the spring time," Lilienthal said.
A concern about the mild winter is that damage may be more prevalent on crops planted in fall, such as winter wheat, since they had less snow cover to provide insulation during cold nights.