The late winter, cold and wet spring have had area farmers scrambling to get their wheat, corn and soybeans planted. Recent warmer and drier weather this past week has finally allowed them to get back into their fields.
“It’s been a heck of a spring,” said Kevin Carlson, chief agronomist and sales manager for Federated Coop Agronomy Department. “The weather is fine now, but things are late. It has been a cool, wet spring and it’s a slower growing season.”
Rick Stromberg is a sales representative for Pioneer Hybrids and raises 400 acres of corn and soybeans south of Mora. He said 2014 was the worst year of his career.
“This year was setting up to be the second worst,” Stromberg said. “However, when the sun comes out, farmers’ attitude changes and they want to plant. No one has said that they were going to give up.”
There were a few warm and dry days in mid-May when farmers got wheat planted and a start on corn and soybean planting. What got planted at that time has emerged and looks good. It has benefited from the rains in May and the recent warm and drier weather.
Roger Peterson, district sales manager for Gold Country Seeds has sales territory from the Twin Cities to the Canadian border. He said that on May 31 between 50-60% of the corn had been planted in this area. Corn was planted on sandy soil, but heavy low or clay ground was a few dry days away from being planted.
Carlson and Peterson also compared this spring to 2014 when there was so much prevented planting. Carlson said that wheat got planted in the early window of nice weather and a lot of corn got in to make it about 75-80% planted in his territory from west of the cities to western Wisconsin and north to Rush City and Ogilvie.
All three said that only 10% of soybeans had been planted in the area as of last Thursday. In general, all crops were two weeks behind and a lot of farmers have switched to earlier season 80-85-day corn.
Carlson added that farmers need a window of warmer and dry weather to dry up the fields enough to finish planting. “The jet stream has to change,” he said.
Chad Barnick of Barnick Agency and crop insurance sales person also raises 1,200 acres of wheat, corn and soybeans near Coin in southern Kanabec County. He said that he had all of his corn and one-third of his total acres planted by last week. He was busy planting the rest. In May he had only four days when his soils were ready to plant. His corn that had been planted was coming up and looked good. In wet areas there is a chance of root rot.
Jason Zastera who farms west of Pine City in Pokegama Township said that his wheat and 700 acres of corn and soybeans were planted. He said that they are looking pretty good and he was going to do some spraying on Friday.
WHAT ARE FARMERS’ OPTIONS?
Farmers with crops to plant have a couple of options. For corn and soybeans that were not planted, farmers can plant later than usual and will likely end up with lower yields than with earlier planting. If they have crop insurance, they can apply for a prevented planting payment. However, if they apply for prevented planting, they must control the weeds by either tillage, herbicides or by planting a cover crop.
“I hope farmers will still plant rather than take prevented acres,” Carlson said. “We’ll have some prevented acres. However, if farmers do not plant, they need to plant a cover crop to keep the weeds down, or keep it tilled. We recommend a mix of four to five different annual crops that will die with winter.”
Barnick said that with crop insurance the prevented planting deadline for this area for corn was May 31 and for soybeans is June 10. Those who choose to plant a cover crop cannot hay or graze it until after Nov. 1, but can till it under. However, those in an NRCS program that pays for a cover crop cannot till it in the fall.
For prevented planting 55% is guaranteed for corn and 60% for soybeans. It is calculated on a combination of a 10-year average yield and whichever coverage option that a farmer selects between yield or revenue.
He added that in 2014, he tilled in a cover crop in the fall and had a record yield the next year in 2015. With prevented planting there are so many rules that he encouraged farmers to talk to their agent before deciding.
He predicted that over half of the farmers will have some prevented planting acres. He did not believe that a decision has been made yet as to whether or not farmers who take a prevented planting payment can also receive a government tariff payment.
If a field is not planted it can take two to three years for the soil micro-organisms to recover. Farmers also lose the potential of a partial crop if the weather changes to favorable growing conditions. “A poor crop is better than no crop,” said Stromberg.
He said that a few of his seed customers were switching from 91 to 82-day corn. Last year 82-day corn planted May 8 yielded 175 bu./ac. 82-day corn planted on June 1 this year will not reach that yield, but there is still potential for a respectable yield.
The middle states in the U.S. are even worse off than we are according to Carlson. With their wet conditions and lack of good planting weather in the corn belt, it is possible to now contract corn for over $4/bushel.
Peterson indicated that most farmers will have to plant even if it is late. “June 10 is the cutoff that most are looking at,” he said. “We’re in better shape than other places. The entire corn belt is having problems planting. In southwest Minnesota only 15-20% for the corn was planted while in East Central Minnesota 50% had been planted by last Thursday. In the Mankato area 80-90% was planted, but some will need to be replanted. Everyone expects to see corn prices go up due to the terrible spring weather. Prevented plant crop insurance will not make anyone rich. It is just a Band-aid for one year.”
Carlson, Peterson and Stromberg all said that alfalfa winterkill was significant. A few farmers will rotate to alfalfa where they lost alfalfa hay ground due to winterkill which was worse than farmers first thought.
Stromberg said that one of his neighbors had been to Iowa recently and said that he saw a 300-acre field with a 50-acre lake. “We actually lucked out,” he said. “The markets are affected by the Iowa and Illinois conditions. The markets bumped up because the whole U. S. is behind. So, it still might be profitable, but it will not be a bin buster.”
Barnick said that market prices have increased in the last two weeks with the weather issues. He encouraged farmers to keep planting as prices are going up. Corn is over $4/bu and soybeans over $8/bu. “We need it to go up another $1/bu. on soybeans,” he added.
Carlson pointed out that China is 40% of our soybean market. They will buy soybeans from somewhere.
Zastera said that the tariffs will hurt a bit. However, there is an excess of grain in the country from good yields in recent years and limited demand. “The bad weather this spring in the rest of the country may help to correct the over-supply and low-demand problem,” he concluded.