Minnesota farmers begin planting under optimal weather

GARDEN CITY, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota farmers are heading into their fields for spring planting in a tight window of opportunity in which soil moisture, temperatures and sunshine optimum yields.

Ideal planting time for corn is between April 21 and May 5, and after May 5 for soybeans, the Mankato Free Press (http://bit.ly/2pKk0YR ) reported. Farmers were already laying down seed by this time last year.

“Right now, if we aren’t in the field by this week or staring hard at it, we’re starting to get real nervous,” said farmer Bob Roelofs.

Roelofs said planting the seeds is a delicate balance of timing with the weather because money is lost if there’s a heavy rain after the fields are prepared. He usually plants three-quarters of corn and one-quarter of soybeans on in his fields, but he’ll plant 50 percent soybeans this year.

AgStar Financial Services senior vice president Mark Greenwood said some farmers might struggle to break even if prices don’t go up on commodities or down in other farming costs like rent.

A study from the University of Minnesota and Minnesota State University found that more than 30 percent of the state’s farms lost money last year, but it was an improvement over the previous year.

“They had really good yields last year, which helped a lot,” Greenwood said. “It could have been worse.”

Kent Thiesse, farm analyst and vice president of MinnStar Bank in Lake Crystal, said the warm weather and rain this winter could be a positive thing for farmers.

“I think that as we head into this growing season, our region is in great shape as far as stored soil moisture in the top 5 feet of soil,” Thiesse said. “It could be helpful if we have a hot and dry weather this summer.”

Farmland makes up about half of the state’s area.