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Planting Progress Behind in Minnesota

Farmers in Minnesota are making decisions on corn hybrids and managing soil conditions.

As the prevented plant dates of May 31 for corn and June 10 for soybeans loom over Minnesota, farmers are faced with a small window of opportunity to get out into the fields (weather depending) or adjust their planting plans.

The USDA Crop Progress Report for the week ending May 26 indicates that 66% of Minnesota corn has been planted, which is eight days behind last year and 13 days behind the five-year average. Only 21% of the corn crop has emerged, which is two weeks behind normal.

For soybeans, 35% of the crop is planted, eight days behind last year and two weeks behind the average. Only 3% of the soybean crop has emerged.

In the forty-plus years Tom Haag has been farming near Eden Valley, Minnesota, he hasn’t seen a season quite like this one. Cool temperatures have slowed down snow melt and continual rain from mother nature has prevented planting even further.

“We were in fields and started planting on Mother’s Day and that week was nice but there were still spots in the fields to work around because they were so wet. That Friday, we were out checking fields but had too much rain and the fields were so saturated that we weren’t able to get any evaporation we needed. Even with tiles, we’re in an area with more rolling hills and water keeps pushing out of the sides.”

Variety is Key

According to Dave Nicolai, Extension educator at the University of Minnesota, farmers got a little more planting done on Sunday but nothing on Monday, and the rest of this week could be just as unpredictable.

Farmers with fields left to plant should be considering a proper corn hybrid if the weather turns around. “We’re behind average in terms of planting dates. Our sweet spot is the end of April. Now, growers should consider planting a hybrid with a relative maturity of five to seven days earlier.”

Nicolai recommends working with your seed seller to find that right variety and to do so soon, because a time crunch and late-maturing varieties mean the crop will have to contend with frost.

“Some years, we have a nice warm July and August and we catch up, but we don’t know what is going to happen. Position the corn hybrid and maturity that will work,” Nicolai says.

For Haag and his plan this season, "We’re all in that waiting game. Normally we plant a 96-98 day corn but we’ll cut back to 90 or 87 and switch seeds at the time we know we will have to start planting around the first of June. We never know if mother nature will bring us an early frost or if we'll get enough heat during the summer for the corn."

Nobels, Murray, and Lincoln counties in southwestern Minnesota are the areas of biggest concern for planting corn before May 31. Farmers there will have to make the tough decision to take prevented planting.

The only way for famers to get a good answer (about prevented planting) is to talk to their local crop insurer. Farmers situations are different, but they can do the calculations and the numbers because that’s part of their decision-making and see when they could get out in the field.”

As for soybeans, Nicolai recommends staying with a full-season variety unless you’re unable to get into the fields by the first week of June.

“With all of these options, we already lost yield we won’t get back,” he says.

Field-Level Concerns

In addition to evaluating your options on hybrid maturities, check the condition of the fields you’ll be planting into.

Nicolai explains that where the field conditions are too wet, you’ll cause compaction that will lead to a poor seed bed, soil with clods, poor seed-to-soil contact, compaction on the nodal roots, and the stand will suffer. Like Haag, if you have wet, lower spots in fields, stay out of those areas to avoid creating ruts.

However, if you’ve had good success in planting corn, then it’s going to be about the soybean decisions and weed control.

Stay on top of the late-emerging weeds this year, especially foxtail and lambsquarters, look out for black cutworm and seed corn maggot (though it might be too late for this pest), and get out to scout your fields as the temperatures start getting warmer.

USDA-rated topsoil moisture supplies:

  • 1% very short
  • 2% short
  • 44% adequate
  • 53% surplus

USDA-rated subsoil moisture supplies:

  • 0% very short
  • 2% short
  • 46% adequate
  • 52% surplus

Additional Crop Progress

Outside of corn and soybeans in Minnesota, the USDA Crop Progress Report ending on May 26 reports: 

  • Spring wheat is 87% planted, three days behind the average; 51% of the spring wheat crop has emerged, nine days behind normal.
  • Oats are 81% planted, 10 days behind normal; 55% of the oat crop has emerged, 11 days behind the average.
  • Barley is 91% planted, just one day ahead of both last year and the five-year average. However, barley emergence is over six days behind average at 55%.
  • Dry edible beans are 38% planted, five days behind normal. Dry edible beans have reached 8% emerged, four days behind the average.
  • Sunflowers are 52% planted, eight days behind last year and five days behind the five-year average.
  • Potatoes planted are 81% complete, four days behind the average.
  • Sugar beets are 92% planted, four days behind both last year and the five-year average.
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