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Farmers out in force as temperatures increase

Joe Pierce took advantage of perfect spring weather Tuesday afternoon to apply fertilizer and complete tillage on a field in northern Kandiyohi County. Carolyn Lange / Forum News Service1 / 2
Joe Pierce took advantage of perfect spring weather Tuesday afternoon to apply fertilizer and complete tillage on a field in northern Kandiyohi County. Carolyn Lange / Forum News Service2 / 2

WILLMAR, Minn. — After a cool, wet spring kept most farm implements inside the machine shed in April, farmers are out in force this week getting field tillage and planting underway.

Statewide in Minnesota, 35 percent of the corn was planted.

That's 16 days behind last year and eight days behind the average, according to the latest crop report released Monday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Sugar beets were eight days ahead of schedule with 78 percent completed, but there were just a few scattered reports of soybeans in the ground. Beans are typically planted after corn and sugar beets.

According to the report, there were just four days "suitable for field work" last week and less than two suitable days the week before that.

Despite the later start, farmers are "not in a panic state," said Wes Nelson, director of the USDA Farm Service Agency in Kandiyohi County.

Given the cold soil temperatures in April, it would not have done much good to have had the seeds in the soil before now, Nelson said, adding that large equipment is helping farmers quickly make up for any lost time.

"Monday is when we started hitting it hard," Nelson said. "The weather is cooperating."

Farmers had gotten used to planting in April in recent years because of warm and dry conditions and were feeling a little behind schedule this year, said Liz Ludwig, Farm Service Agency director for Yellow Medicine and Chippewa counties.

But it was "a good thing" not to have things planted any earlier, she said. "It would've been tough on that seed sitting in that cold, wet soil."

The lack of farmers coming into the FSA office this week was a clear sign they were busy in the fields, Ludwig said.

"I just heard a farmer say that being in the field Saturday was a lot of fun because the gravel roads were as busy as the interstate," she said. "Everybody was out and about working in the field."

Temperatures in the 60s and warm winds have helped make ground tillable ,but there are still pockets of wet fields in some areas that will need to dry out before fieldwork begins.

Joe Pierce was applying fertilizer and tilling a field Tuesday afternoon on his family's farm in northern Kandiyohi County. It was going well in that field but he said some fields are still wet.

Nelson said it's not a good idea to rush field work when the fields are too wet.

"When you mud a crop in, you never recover from that," Nelson said. "You want to do it right."

Nelson estimates about 20 percent of the corn crop was in the ground in Kandiyohi County before Monday.

It's a different story in Meeker County, where the soil is a little sandier.

Jamie Vanderweyst, Farm Service Agency director in Meeker County, said corn was about 75 percent planted.

"We've had groups of people out since mid-April," Vanderweyst said, and several producers have already come into the FSA office to certify their planted acres. Vanderweyst said she has not seen any reports of soybeans being planted yet in the county.

For crop insurance purposes, farmers have until May 31 to get corn and sugar beets planted and June 10 for soybeans.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

(320) 894-9750