Hitting the ground running

NICE SPRING WEATHER has allowed farmers all over the region time to till soil and get some planting done as well — a far cry from this time a year ago. Photo / Per Peterson

This spring has been described as ‘normal,’ which after last year is just what the farmers ordered

By Per Peterson

Jay Fultz remembers last year’s planting season like it was yesterday.

“April 17, we had 11 inches of heavy, wet snow,” the Tracy farmer said of last spring. “It was the 15th or 16th of May when we actually started corn. This year, we started the 22nd of April, which is typically a normal time for us. It’s nice to have a normal spring.”

A mid-April ice storm last spring all but pushed normal aside. On April 13, the massive storm covered the area in snow and ice, toppling trees and power lines and turning farm fields into fields of white. A wet spring kept some farmers out of the fields until June.

“Last year, we just couldn’t get a break with the weather in many areas,” said Lizabeth Stahl, educator with the University of Minnesota Extension. “We kept getting rain, conditions were continually wet, and many just could not get into the fields until June. 2018 was another wet spring, although not nearly as bad as 2019. When people finally were able to get into the field, many crops got mudded in last year or at least were planted in conditions that were less than optimal. This year is a welcome break. We just had some timely moisture that should help activate pre-emergence herbicides and help with germination and emergence.”

Stahl said there is no comparison to last year. She said farmers like Fultz are literally a month ahead of last year’s schedule and that field conditions have been very good.

“And when you look at the calendar, this is a great time to be getting the crops in,” she said. “We know both corn and soybean respond to planting date, and a good planting date sets us up for optimizing yield potential.”

Such definitely was not the case a year ago at this time, and the effects of the late planting season carried over. Stahl said she and a colleague are working on compiling data from a planting date survey from 2019. As expected, she said, the late planting had an impact on both corn and soybeans, with earlier dates doing better overall. Conditions at planting were also important, Stahl added, with average yields being lower when corn was planted into wet conditions versus ideal conditions.

See this week’s Headlight Herald for more on this article.