WILLMAR -- University of Minnesota research shows that April 25 marks the beginning of the ideal time to plant corn in Minnesota, but the state crop weather report shows that none of the state's corn and soybean crops has been planted.
The report, issued Monday, shows that only 2 percent of the land is prepared for corn planting, compared to 73 percent last year and a five-year average of 33 percent. Last year, Minnesota's farmers had 56 percent of the corn planted by this time. The five-year average is 22 percent.
Only 1 percent of the soybean fields were prepared, well short of the 20 percent ready for planting last year and the five-year average of 8 percent.
And, the cool, wet weather has moved the approximate start date for full-scale field work from April 25 to May 1. Last year, farmers began the spring work on April 13. The average start date is April 21.
It will take at least four or five dry days to get area farmers into the fields, according to Wes Nelson, Farm Service Agency director in Kandiyohi County.
Nelson noted that he had heard of corn planted Monday in the Atwater area on lighter soils. "That's the exception rather than the norm," he cautioned.
If they don't want to compact the soil and cause further problems for the growth of their corn crop, farmers are going to have to develop some patience, according to David Nicolai, University of Minnesota Extension crops educator based in Hutchinson.
"Waiting on soil conditions, that's where patience comes in," he said. "We can still get a good crop if we plant in the first part of May."
Farmers are going to have to watch the five- to six-day forecast and work around weather conditions, Nicolai stressed. There will still be the opportunity to get the crops planted, even if the progress is well behind the ideal conditions farmers experienced in 2010.
"Take it easy and do a good job on the corn. There will still be time to plant the beans," he said. "Yes, last year was way ahead, but things have a way of equaling out."
Both Nelson and Nicolai noted that the compressed timeframe of planting -- with farmers likely not stopping between planting the corn, sugar beets and soybeans -- means there will be a dramatic rural rush hour. They urged drivers to keep an eye out for tractors and equipment on the roadways when the wet weather finally does give way to sunshine.
"It'll be non-stop when it does break," Nelson said.
And, with tracks replacing tires on tractors and the larger equipment, farmers can get in the fields earlier and make more progress once into the fields, Nicolai said.
"There is no question, today's technology allows us to get into the field earlier than we could 20 years ago," Nicolai said.
The national crop progress report released Monday showed that 9 percent of the corn had been planted in the 18 states that produce most of the nation's crop. That is well behind the 56 percent planted a year ago and the 23 percent average from 2006 to 2010.
Nationally, farmers are even further behind in planting sugar beets. The four states that produce 84 percent of the nation's beet crop had 80 percent of the crop in the ground at this time last year. This year, just 10 percent is planted. The five-year average is 40 percent planted.