Farmers seeing more field time, but signs of late snowfall linger

While the ducks sure appreciate the prairie potholes in the area, small pools of water aren’t a welcome sight for farmers in the second week of May. Standing water like in this field in northern Murray County is a reminder of the April 30-May 1 snowstorm.

By Per Peterson

The rest of the week calls for dry conditions, and farmers in the Tracy area couldn’t be happier.
Northern Lyon County and southern Murray county seemed to have been in the bulls-eye during the April 30-May 1 snowstorm. While some farmers were able to sneak in the fields in the latter stages of April, that wasn’t the case for most. And even today, many fields are still saturated thanks to the 5 to 6 inches of wet snow that fell recently.
Matt Surprenant, who farms southwest of Tracy, said there are some areas that are still too wet to plant on.
“Normally, we would like to be done with corn by now, so there will be a lot of planting done this week as we rush to get the corn in,” Surprenant said. “Everyone will start on the beans as soon as they get done with the corn.”
Surprenant said he first got in the field on April 23 and planted for a day-and-a-half before stopping because of the incoming cool and wet weather that was forecast.
“I just got going again Sunday,” he said. “For the most part, soil conditions are fit for planting, but there are some wet spots along fences and field edges where the snow was deeper.”
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Minnesota’s corn crop was 35 percent planted as of Sunday. Although that’s almost triple the 12 percent planted as of a week earlier, it’s still 16 days behind last year and eight days behind average.
University of Minnesota Extension says corn farmers can still achieve maximum yields if they plant by mid-May.
The state’s spring wheat crop is 65 percent planted, which is six days ahead of average.
Univeristy of Minnesota Extension Educator Liz Stahl said the window for planting is open, but farmers shouldn’t rush to the fields too soon or take any chances. She said a day here or there, or even a few hours, can make a world of difference in solid conditions. As far as soil conditions, she said if the soil doesn’t crumble when squeezed it’s probably too wet to be in the field.
“You really have to be wcareful for soil compaction,” she said. “That something that you could be dealing with for years if you go out too soon. It’s been so cool and wet, but overall, people really haven’t lost that much (time) this year. You can look at planting up to the middle of may — l likely that’s still going to optimize yield this year.”
Stahl said the forecast is favorable for some important drying to occur in the area. It’s still early May, she said.
“We’re not in a tough spot yet when you look at planting dates,” she said. “We haven’t really had hardly any growing days yet this season — it’s been so cool. It would be helpful to get some good drying weather.”