Drought conditions may have helped spring planting in Minn.

Farm Forum

WILLMAR, Minn. – Even with the numerous heavy wet snows in April and May and seemingly abundant rainfall, west central Minnesota is still in a moderate to severe drought.

The U.S. Drought Monitor released on June 13 shows that severe drought conditions remain in portions of Renville, Redwood and Yellow Medicine counties. The severe-rated area is just 0.87 percent of the state’s land, but it is a significant portion of those three counties.

The southern portion of Kandiyohi County, along with western Meeker, western and southern Swift, much of Renville, eastern Yellow Medicine and portions of Lyon, Redwood, Brown, Nicollet and Sibley counties remain at the moderate drought rating. There is also a portion of northern Minnesota, including Beltrami and surrounding counties, still in the moderate drought stage.

Most of west central and southwest Minnesota continues to be in abnormally dry. A total of 66 percent of the state is no longer in drought conditions.

Those drought conditions, with the dry soil soaking up the moisture, may have helped farmers in Kandiyohi County get their corn and soybean crops planted during the small windows of opportunity between rain storms, according to Wes Nelson, executive director of the Farm Service Agency office in Willmar, Minn.

And, there is very little crop in the area that did not get planted, Nelson said, noting that the corn seeds germinated and plants emerged quickly.

“For the most part, our crops are in the ground,” Nelson said. “Now, we need some heat.”

Doug Albin, who farms in the Clarkfield area, reported that the crops in his area looking “pretty good,” but are between two and three weeks behind in development, with the corn between 4 and 9 inches tall and the soybeans emerging.

Both Nelson and Jodi DeJong-Hughes, University of Minnesota Extension Educator for crops, note that the lagging crop development may put the corn crop back into the “knee-high by the Fourth of July” category. Most years, the corn is about chest-high by Independence Day due to improved seed hybrids and farming techniques.

“This year we are wondering if we will make that (the knee high measurement),” DeJong-Hughes said, reporting that the corn is between 2 and 8 inches tall and that soybeans are just emerging to reaching the first trifoliate stage.

She urged farmers to do nitrate testing to determine if the nitrogen needed by the young corn plants was still available or had been washed down in the soil profile.

The west central region has received a wide variation in rainfall, but doesn’t have much ground where crops have not been planted and farmers will thus enroll in prevented planting programs through crop insurance, she said.

Albin has been taking calls from friends and fellow corn growers facing navigating the prevented planting programs, since he went through the program just two years ago. While he’s optimistic about his crop, he feels for the farmers in other areas, like the southeast part of the state, who have not planted half of their crops.

Farmers may be worried about their crops, because this not-so-great year comes after such an exceptional year last year. DeJong-Hughes has been in soil pits — 3- to 4-foot-deep pits dug into fields for research on crop root systems and soil conditions — and found that the soils are recharged with moisture.

“You’ve got to look around you, and see that we are doing pretty good,” she said. “Count your blessings. We have moisture now to go into the summer.”