Soil dries, but it’s too cool to plant

While some reports predict a late spring planting start due to the long winter that could threaten fall yields, University of Minnesota Agricultural Extension Educator Christian Lilienthal sees it differently.

“Farmers are planning to proceed as normal,” Lilienthal said. “The time is right, the soil moisture level is right, it really dried down nicely, we just need heat for a 50 degree soil temperature.”

The University of Minnesota Southwest Research and Outreach Center (SROC) in Lamberton listed the average two-inch soil temperature at 42 degrees, 43 degrees at four inches and 42 degrees at eight inches on Monday. Data is delayed 24 hours, according to the SROC website.

The SROC website reported frost free soil under bare ground down to 17 inches; and no frost under sod on Friday, April 11.

“You can get just about any prediction you’d like. Everybody is saying something different,” Lilienthal said. “‘Plant in dust, bins will bust.’ You really like conditions like this to avoid compaction. But the first drink of water (spring precipitation) should not be snow or ice, or plant emergence is more difficult due to compaction.”

Lilienthal said it’s often too wet in the spring which makes the planting window smaller and smaller, causing people to plant when it’s too wet.

He’d like to see higher commodity prices to help things out. “Significantly falling commodity prices have made it tough for people trying to arrange land rent contracts,” Lilienthal said. “Tax rates always lag a bit, using last year’s and previous year’s data. Those rates are increasing in most cases. Contracts need to be figured out before planting.”

South Central College Ag Business Management instructor Wayne Schoper said there is still a little frost in the ground at depths of 2 1/2 feet or so, but warmer daytime temperatures and rain would overcome it.

“We’re not far off target,” Schoper said. “It’s not like two years ago when we were planting corn and peas already, but we’ve got pretty good soil moisture with the snow we got a week ago Thursday.”

Schoper said he wouldn’t predict lower corn prices this year, but rather prices near the cost of production. “We’re higher than we were Jan. 1, 2014.”

Several weeks ago, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) long-range temperature forecast was for below average temperatures for March, April, May and June 2014 and average precipitation for Minnesota and most Upper Midwest states.

The NOAA long-range forecast called for average temperatures for the Upper Midwest in July, August and September 2014 and for above average temperatures in October, November and December. Average precipitation was forecast for most of the country for the rest of 2014.

For more information, visit:

swroc.cfans.umn.edu/WeatherInformation/ and www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/predictions/long_range/lead01/off01_temp/gif

(Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at fbusch@nujournal.com).

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