As of this writing, April 28, Minnesota had 0 percent of its annual corn crop planted according to National Ag Statistics. Compare this to the long term average of 22 percent and you can see why there is a lot of concern about what is happening with the weather.
A few days of warm weather with a little drying wind can change things in a hurry. However, there is a bigger picture to look at. According to rainfall reports, Missouri, Ohio, Illinois and Indiana are also well behind in planting corn. Typically, the corn belt planting season starts in the southern U.S. and heads north with the first acres being planting in Kentucky and adjoining states back sometime in March. Some acres have been planted but recent rainfall amounts totally eight inches or more have stopped corn planting in its tracks.
Again, just a few days of decent weather will get us back on track. Modern agriculture has the ability to really get on the stick and get the crop in the ground in a big hurry if necessary.
Corn is king around southern Minnesota. We feed a lot of it and, along with soybean production, provides the bulk of farm income from crops. It is also the number one livestock feed in our area with many bushels feeding hogs, poultry and cattle thus providing value-added production.
Once it is planted, corn needs two things in order to germinate, moisture and heat. We have plenty of moisture, but we are very short of heat. It was a very cold, long winter. The long winter happened last year too. However, March of 2010 saw dry conditions with winter ending early and a great spring that allowed farmers out into the field early. In fact, we thought maybe we were getting out too early with most of the corn in the ground by the last week of April. However, as the growing season progressed, we saw one of the most ideal growing seasons ever culminating with excellent yields and a long fall season to finish tillage and other fieldwork. This year we have not had the warm temperatures needed to warm soils to get temperatures up to germination levels. As recently as April 22, soil temperatures were still below 40 degrees. Corn needs a soil temperature of 52 degrees in order to germinate. Even if we had been able to get into the field and plant the corn would have laid in the soil and not germinated. This opens up the possibility of seed rotting in the ground. It would have to lay there for at least 10 14 days before we would see significant losses.
So where does this leave us now? If we can get into the field in the next few days, we can get the majority of the corn in the ground by early May. Long-term research shows that we do not start seeing significant corn yield losses until after May 5-7. Then we can start seeing potential yields start to fall about 1 percent per day. But that also depends on what happens the rest of the summer. If the weather warms up and stays there, the corn can catch up and reach maturity in a timely fashion. One advantage we did have this year was early snow cover which did not allow a lot of frost in the ground. This meant that the snow soaked down into the soil as it melted with very little runoff. The caution here is to avoid getting into the field before soil conditions are right. If tillage occurs with excessive moisture in the soil, compaction can occur and cause major problems.
For more information on farm business management, please contact Wayne in the Sleepy Eye area or Rich in the New Ulm area.