Spring is a busy time of year for Minnesota farmers, and they’re working on getting crops in the ground.
Farmers in southeast Minnesota are a little behind the rest of the state when it comes to planting progress. A couple of the main reasons are cool soil temperatures and residual moisture left over from winter snowfall.
“We’re still on the early side and there’s prep stuff going on,” said Lisa Behnken, a Crop Educator with the University of Minnesota Extension Service in Rochester. “We had one early planted plot that we were supposed to get in and we did this week. The ground is getting ready.”
Spring weather is a big key in planting success, and Behnken said there’s a reason for concern coming up next week:
While southeast Minnesota is a little slower in planting progress, farmers in the rest of the state seem to be having better luck so far.
“It’s very different from the rest of the state after talking with my coworkers,” said Behnken. “As you go from here to the north and west, they have a lot of small grains in, which is good because small grains need to go in early.”
Some corn is going into the ground as well, mostly in the southwest part of the state.
Behnken said, “As you head west toward Worthington, they’ve gotten some corn in. Around here, there’s a little bit of corn that’s gone in, but its just a few fields.”
“We’re seeing more anhydrous going in,” she said. “Fertilizer is also going down as far as broadcasting on the fields. We’ve been able to do a lot of field prep work in this part of the state. We were down in a bigger part of southeast Minnesota and made some of the same observations.”
Field conditions may still be too wet to plant in this part of the state.
“We got that snow, we’ve had a little more rain,” said Behnken, “So our spring is actually a little later than the rest of the state, if you want to make a comparison. For example, we have friends that farm north of Fergus Falls, in the Perham area, that have all their small grains in. They’re now working the ground to get ready to put corn in.”
She said, “They just haven’t had the rain and snow we’ve had here.”
Even if the wet forecast holds true, she said there’s still plenty to do to get ready for planting:
She said soil temperatures might still be less than optimum for planting.
“The plot that we planted here is a lighter textured soil,” said Behnken. “The soil temp was 49 degrees, and corn germinates at 50 degrees. This is lighter soil, so it’s going to be warmer than other soils that are heavier and have more moisture in them. Those will take a little longer to warm up.”
Most of the state is short of moisture, but Behnken said that’s one area where southeast Minnesota farmers have an advantage.
“We’re better,” she said. “That’s the other comment that my coworkers made as you head west and north. We’ve picked up snow and gotten rain, and they’ve missed some of those. In several of those areas, especially west, they could really use some rain. You do notice when the soils get drier, you don’t want to do too much tillage, and that can slow you down.”
It’s important not to work the soil too early.
“It’s always a delicate balance,” said Behnken. “There’s no reason to work the soil any more than you need too. It’s kind of like, work it-plant it, work it-plant it, so you don’t let the soil lose too much moisture.”
There is concern around the state that some alfalfa fields have been hit by winterkill.
“In our area, the alfalfa fields are just starting to green up,” she said. “Other areas greened up earlier, and as folks got out into the fields, things looked good at first. Now there seeing fields hit with a fair amount of winterkill.”
She said the area between St Cloud and Fergus Falls seems to be hit hard by winterkill.
“The key point on whether or not they’re seeing winterkill relates back to their fall cutting management was,” said Behnken. “People that cut fields in September, which is always a risky time, and then some of the areas didn’t have a lot of snow cover, but still had cold temperatures, so there wasn’t much protection for the stand.”
She said, “The worst injury happened in areas where they cut alfalfa in September.”