Planting delayed, but hope springs eternal
By Tom Webb St. Paul Pioneer Press
ST. PAUL – It may not seem so, but the calendar says it’s corn-planting time in Minnesota. Chilly weather tells a different story.
“Normally the window is the last week of April and first week of May, that’s generally our optimum planting date in Minnesota,” said Jeff Coulter, University of Minnesota corn specialist. “But this year has been kind of a weird year in that it’s cool and wet.
“We’re kind of in the window right now, but the soil isn’t fit for planting,” Coulter said.
On Monday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that a few Minnesota farmers have started spring planting. About 4 percent of the state’s corn acreage has been planted, USDA reported, compared with the usual 30 percent by this date.
Corn is Minnesota’s No. 1 crop, and farmers expect to plant 8.6 million acres this year. Those first acres seem to have been planted in southwest and west-central Minnesota, but it’s been so chilly that those first seeds probably aren’t doing much, Coulter notes.
Normally, soil temperatures need to be at least 50 degrees before corn is planted, which allows the seeds to germinate properly. Most soil temperatures are still in the mid-40s in Minnesota and won’t warm up until the weather does.
In any case, Coulter said he’s “still optimistic for the year.” Partly, that’s because of the rain.
Large sections of southern and western Minnesota are still classified as being in a mild drought left over from last year. The slow melting of the heavy snowpack, and now forecasts for six straight days of rain, ought to ease lingering worries.
“Assuming the rain does stop this week and farmers are able to get their crops planted in a reasonable time, then we should be set up pretty good,” Coulter said. “There should be sufficient soil moisture there to get us going for a long time.”
But, he added, “We really need to get that corn planted by mid-May.”
The Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum News Service, which includes the Echo Press.