Planting season underway

May 19, 2019

Most Minnesota farmers took advantage this week of the few days that were suitable for fieldwork to get crops in the ground before falling behind schedule.

According to the USDA crop progress and conditions report released May 13, Minnesota farmers had an average of about three days last week with the right weather and soil conditions for planting.

On those days, farmers across the state were able to spread fertilizer, haul manure and, most importantly, plant crops. The northwestern part of the state progressed the most with planting, having avoided the precipitation that most of the state experienced.

More than 20 percent of Minnesota’s corn acres were planted, three days behind last year’s progress.

Only 3 percent of the expected soybeans were planted in Minnesota, two weeks behind the state average.

According to the crop progress report from Iowa, 48 percent of the state’s corn is in. That’s the smallest percentage of corn planted by mid-May since 2013.

Scott Winslow grows corn and soybeans near Fountain, where he farms with his son, Colin, who has his own crops as well.

Winslow, who’s also the vice chairman of the Minnesota Corn Research and Promotion Council, said he is planting corn in about two-thirds of his acres and soybeans in the remainder. His son switches year-to-year between corn and soybeans.

Winslow said they finished planting all of their corn and soybean crops by May 16. He had about 70 acres left to plant in the 700 acres of custom work he was doing, but morning rain had delayed his planting homestretch. The father and son were left waiting for the ground to dry out.

“In a normal year — whatever that is, we should be done before the 15th of May,” said Winslow of planting. “On a good day you can get 100 acres planted. But that’s an awful good day.”

Although he said they’re still ahead of last year’s pace, Winslow isn’t pleased with how the weather has panned out. He said farmers learn quickly they don’t work with but around Mother Nature.

“If you could pull the rain chain yourself, you’d have rain in July and August and shut it off at the end of September,” said Winslow. “Then make sure October and November are dry enough to get your crop, and have the wind blow gently so it dries it down.”

Delays can come on days with the right conditions too, said Winslow. He’d spent about two hours the day before dealing with an equipment break, while the skies were clear with temperatures in the mid-70s.

With the low crop prices, Winslow said it’s very important for farmers to have good relationships with their bankers. But he said the financial stress doesn’t throw off or change the way he plants.

“You don’t just sit in the house and pout because the markets aren’t good,” he said. “You have to get out there and get it planted, raise a good crop and hope that next year’s better.”

It helps to be optimistic, he said, that the next crop will be good and prices will get better.

The Winslow family has farmed the land since 1854, four years before Minnesota became the 32nd state.

“So I come from a long line of optimistic farmers,” said Winslow. “I’m fifth-generation, and my son will be sixth, and he’s buying into it. He likes to get up in the morning at six, and work until nine, to be able to get something done with the day.”

If prices don’t come up, at least for soybeans, Winslow said he’s unsure if that will change the crop plans for other farmers. He’s not sure about his own plan, either.

“Ask me next spring,” he said.

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