MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — This could be a critical week for Minnesota farmers, who are running late with spring planting due to soggy fields but have a chance to catch up thanks to good weather forecast for the next few days.
In its weekly crop weather report for Minnesota, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said Monday 47 percent of the state’s corn had been planted as of Sunday, a 19-point advance over the previous week. That compares with 95 percent at the same point in 2010 and a five-year average of 81 percent. Soybeans were 9 percent planted, compared with 46 percent last year and a 38 percent average.
Cool weather and frequent rain combined to limit planting again last week, when only three days were rated suitable for fieldwork, the report said.
Several experts said Minnesota farmers who don’t get their corn planted in the coming week or two may switch to shorter-season varieties, which don’t yield as much, or plant more acres with soybeans, which don’t need to be planted as early as corn but aren’t quite as profitable at current prices.
“We’re at a really pivotal point,” said Seth Naeve, a soybean specialist with the University of Minnesota Extension Service. “I think the weather’s come just in time. We’ve got a good forecast for the week. … I think we’re going to see these guys go 24/7 this week and we’re going to see record planting progress this week.”
The National Weather Service is forecasting sunny conditions statewide into Wednesday, but a chance of showers and thunderstorms starting Thursday night in southwestern Minnesota and extending to the whole state Friday into the weekend.
Richard Syverson, who raises corn, soybeans and cattle on just over 1,000 acres near Clontarf in western Minnesota, said he hasn’t experienced such delays since the mid-1990s. He said he was finally able to plant 20 percent to 25 percent of his corn Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning before it started to rain again.
“Under really good conditions, I can plant about 20 percent of my crop a day. … That’s a really hard day but it but it’s certainly a doable thing,” Syverson said
While the weather looked good Monday, Syverson said his fields still weren’t ready to support heavy machinery and he expected it would take another couple days for them to dry out.
“I have a friend who calls it `sinning’ when you go out too early,” Syverson said. “It feels good when you get the work done, but you pay for it for a long, long time.”
Syverson, a regional representative for several western counties with the Minnesota Corn Growers Association, said if the precipitation late this week is heavy enough, he expects farmers in his area who haven’t already planted their corn will make a “pretty massive shift” to soybeans.
Naeve said he doesn’t expect large-scale switching of varieties or crops, though there may be some. He still expects Minnesota farmers overall will plant about 8 million acres of corn and about 7 million acres of soybeans, as previously forecast.
Pioneer Hi-Bred advises Minnesota corn farmers who plant its varieties to stick with full-season hybrids until about May 26-28. The seed company says switching to early maturity hybrids sooner than that probably won’t benefit farmers and may cut their profits.
Chad Berghoefer, a technical services manager for Pioneer in Mankato, said the speed of planting has reached an all-time high due to the size and efficiency of modern planting equipment, which lets farmers plant more acres faster and even late into the night. Minnesota farmers now typically can plant 5 percent to 15 percent of their acres on a good day, he said.
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