WILLMAR -- While they are still below the five-year average for development, area field crops are using the recent sun and rain to make significant progress, according to reports from around west central Minnesota.
University of Minnesota Extension educator David Nicolai, who is based in Hutchinson, reports that the corn crop is making lots of progress, with some fields reaching or about to reach canopy. The crop is responding to the higher temperatures, but is still behind last year's well above-average development.
"We are behind last year," he said. "But, we are catching up."
According to the Minnesota weekly crop weather re-port by the National Agricultural Statistics Service, the corn is 20 inches tall as of Sunday, compared to 50 inches last year and 33 inches on the five-year average. Beans were 6 inches tall, compared with 12 inches in 2007 and 9 inches on average.
The report shows the first cutting of alfalfa was 87 percent complete, compared to 95 percent last year and 91 percent on average. Corn and soybean crops were rated as 71 and 68 percent, respectively, in good or excellent condition.
Overall, the corn crop in this area looks better than the crop in the Waseca area, because that area has a wider range of variability, Nicolai said. The area soybean crop is also coming along, due to the warmer temperatures, but may need a late fall frost.
"Overall, we are behind last year, but certainly within the radar," he said. "It would be good to have a nice fall."
Doug Albin, the vice president of the Minnesota Corn Growers who farms near Clarkfield, echoes Nicolai's statements. The corn and bean crops look good, but are behind on maturity. The wheat is starting to head out and the first crop of alfalfa baled up, about two weeks later than normal. Albin has corn fields ranging from 6 inches tall to chest-height, thanks to the challenging spring conditions.
Even so, "things just look good," he said Monday afternoon. "I really think we are doing well."
Duane Adams, who farms in the Cosmos area, reports less than an inch of rain fell over the weekend and a small area of crops sustained hail damage.
"In general, we are doing good, considering what's happening a few hundred miles to the south," he said, referencing the flooding that's estimated to have affected 20 percent of Iowa's crops.
Crop prices reacted, with soybean contracts up and corn contracts down on the Chicago Board of Trade, to the U.S. Department of Agriculture acreage report released Monday morning.
The report estimated the nation's farmers have planted 87.3 million acres of corn, down 7 percent from last year, and 74.5 million acres of soybeans, up 17 percent from 2007. Even with the flooding in Iowa and down the Mississippi River, USDA expects farmers to harvest 78.9 million acres of corn and 72.1 million acres of beans this fall.
"It's pretty early to tell what size of crop it will be," Albin cautioned, noting that he's recently traveled to Washington, D.C., and heard from about the flooding and challenging spring planting weather conditions from farmers from across the nation. "We will need every bit of it."