Farm Horizons, August 2013

Farmers need hot Aug. and Sept., late frost, to allow crops to mature and dry for harvest

By Jennifer Kotila

“It certainly was a challenging spring,” said Kevin Dahlman of Dahlman Farms north of Cokato, noting that some farmers put their crops in the ground on time, some early, but most crops were planted late or really late.

Most crops at this time are running anywhere from 10 days to two weeks later than ususal. Although there was a nice, hot beginning to July, Minnesota farmers received a break from hot weather during the week ending July 28, according to the US Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). Statewide, temperatures for the week were about 6.7 degrees below average. Cooler weather slows the growth of crops.

“We are looking for a hot August and September to push crops along, and a late frost to allow for more time for crops to grow, finish, and dry down,” Dahlman said. He also noted there have been five weeks with little to no moisture, and more is needed to finish out the crops.

Drier than normal weather in the southern two-thirds of the state reduced topsoil and subsoil moisture to 26 and 21 percent short and very short, respectively, according to NASS. With more than two inches of rain, North Central Minnesota was the only district in the state with significantly more moisture than average.

“All in all, we have an average crop coming,” Dahlman noted. Sixty percent of corn was at or beyond the silking stage July 29, an advancement of 41 percentage points from the previous week, according to NASS. Corn stalks grew 12 inches to an average height of 71 inches. However, corn conditions declined slightly to 62 percent good or excellent from 64 percent.

About 68 percent of soybeans were at or beyond blooming stage July 29, behind last year’s 93 percent and the five year average of 77 percent, according to NASS. Only 12 percent of soybeans were setting pods, 18 percentage points behind normal. Plants were an average of 20 inches tall. Soybean conditions declined slightly to 63 percent good or excellent from 65 percent.

Although Minnesota farmers are currently looking at an average crop coming along, Dahlman noted it is subject to a killing frost in the fall due to the late planting. The average frost date in Minnesota is the first week of October, and farmers would like to see that extended to at least mid-October this year, according to Dahlman. However, frost can come as early as September, and as late as the end of October.

Last year was about as ideal as one could get for Minnesota farmers, according to Dahlman, and the state was the breadbasket of the nation. Typically, states such as Iowa and Nebraska produce more than Minnesota, but those states were struck with drought in 2012. Minnesota farmers benefitted from the short crop last year, receiving better prices for corn and beans.

This year, there is a lot of corn planted, with nice yields coming nationwide, Dahlman said. This will drive down the price per bushel, and Minnesota farmers won’t fare as well as last year, he noted.

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