Fields quiet, for now …

A number of area fields took on plenty of moisture this past weekend as anywhere from 2 to 4 inches fell in southwest Minnesota. The rain undoubtedly has put the brakes on this year’s spring planting season. Photo / Per Peterson

Area received between 2-4” of rain between last Thursday and Sunday

By Per Peterson

Given the current weather pattern Minnesota is in, Brian Hicks has chosen to avoid checking the current soil temperatures, as he waits for things to warm up and dry up.

“I haven’t looked for a while … just for my sanity, or insanity, whichever way you look at it,” said Hicks, who farms corn and soybeans northeast of Tracy. “Fifty degrees-plus is ideal — you want the mild temperatures and the soil to stay constant — you don’t want a rollercoaster.”

After a cold January and February, cool temps have persisted in southwest Minnesota since April, leaving the current soil temperature (4 inches beneath the surface) at 44.7 degrees, according to the University of Minnesota Extension. The soil temperature on April 26 was 39.6 degrees, and many farmers remember that last year, the planting season was well under way even before that date.

“It is frustrating, because by nature, we start looking at the calendar and we want to get out there and go as early as possible so we can utilize all the heat units that we get,” he said. “This year, we haven’t achieved a lot of heat units because it’s been so cold.”

Hicks said he received about 2 inches of rain over this past weekend, which is comparable to other areas, although more rain fell to the south of Tracy.

“As dry as we were last year in our neighborhood, the rain doesn’t hurt,” he said. “But we could sure use the thermostat turned up and that big yellow thing we see in the sky once in awhile to come out.”

Hicks said this year’s situation, with farmers still not in the fields, is a 180-degree difference from a year ago, when soils were very dry and much warmer than today.

“With the cold, wet soils, it’s hard on our seeds,” he said. “Ideally, if we were in charge, it would be very dry right now and warm. Then we could turn (rain) on in mid-May, have a nice shot at the end of May, just keep metering it out. But we’re not in charge, and we have to learn how to deal with what we’re given.”

Tracy farmer Jay Fultz, like Hicks, is also frustrated but knows Mother Nature doesn’t always cooperate or have the best timing when it comes to rain and temperatures.

“In 2018, we had this same deal, when it was cold and wet. We got it in — it was late, of course, but everything got in. It throws off timing a little bit, and we will be moving away from some of our later-maturing corn and going to something a little bit earlier … it’s going to warm up, it’s going to dry out.”

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