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Planting in Minnesota continues around intermittent rain showers

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WORTHINGTON -- Eastern Jackson County farmer Loren Tusa is wondering when, exactly, farmers were supposed to start planting this year.

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It was warm and dry early, then it cooled off. They now have intermittent rain showers to work around.

"Conditions were ideal two weeks ago and it was really dry," said Tusa while hauling corn Tuesday morning. "Now we're going into this humid, wet planting cycle."

A day earlier, Tusa said the soil temperature was only in the mid-40s. It should be 50 degrees for corn and closer to 60 degrees for soybeans, he added.

"We're not going to panic on soybeans here for a while," Tusa said.

He estimated farmers in his area were about two-thirds of the way through corn planting, with some already finished and others about half done. A stretch of warm weather really helped boost planted acreage across the state in the last week.

Monday's Crop Weather Report issued by the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service Minnesota Field Office showed approximately 48 percent of the corn crop has been planted, with 4 percent of the soybean crop in the ground. The number of corn acres planted so far this spring is significantly ahead of the 1 percent planted a year ago at this time and 31 percent for the five-year average.

Roger Doeden, who farms outside Worthington with his brother, Larry, said they are "coming right along" with corn planting, and the weekend rains provided some moisture to get the seeds to germinate. Doeden said he had about a quarter-inch of rain recorded at his farm -- a small enough amount that they were able to get back into the fields by Monday afternoon to resume planting.

Doeden said they were about three-fourths of the way through corn planting, and are ready to move into soybeans right away. Rain and thunderstorms in the forecast through much of the rest of the week, however, may delay their plans.

"The way the weather forecast sounds, it doesn't look like we'll get in the fields," Doeden said. "It's still early. We better take the moisture while we can get it --as long as it comes nice."

Tusa said a good 3-inch rain over a period of time would really help to replenish the soil moisture.

"I do not know what it's like if a guy would dig a 4-foot hole," he said. "We just finished off the year with no subsoil moisture. I'm not going to complain about being delayed here for a little while."

An unseasonably warm winter and the lack of snow cover and critical spring rains have kept southwest Minnesota lands in a moisture deficiency.

"The soil wasn't recharged like we typically have in the winter," said Liz Stahl, Extension crops educator at the University of Minnesota Regional Center in Worthington. "We're just so dry. People don't really realize how dry we might be. It's unprecedented."

It seems all of southwest Minnesota is dealing with drier than normal soils this year. According to information released by University of Minnesota Extension Climatologist Mark Seeley, the period from August through mid-April will go down as one of the driest on record, if not the driest. Lamberton's moisture deficit is 7.51 inches below normal, the driest on record, while Marshall is 8.69 inches below normal, its second driest on record.

The potential for continued drought conditions increases the importance of weed control, especially with reduced tillage practices. Stahl said doing field cultivation right before planting will knock out some weeds, but post-emergent applications may need to be made earlier than usual under drought conditions.

"Drought-stressed weeds are tougher to control," Stahl said. "Pre-emergence herbicides, even though they do need moisture to activate, they don't need a lot. If moisture is a premium, we don't want to have a lot of weeds out there."

Buntjer writes for the Daily Globe in Worthington, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.

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