Spring planting headaches

Numbers are very important for farmers this time of year. They’re ready to plant the new crop, but except for some very scattered fieldwork over the last week, nothing’s moving.

There’s a number: 0. As in, none of the Minnesota spring wheat crop has been planted. The average for this time of year would be about 9 percent. That means there’s a lot of farmers watching and waiting. A little knot of concern tightens somewhere in their subconscious. It’s time to be in the fields.

Here’s another number: 1.00″. That’s one inch of rain at Winnebago last week. Southern Minnesota. Right in the heart of the state’s best farmland. Most other spots across the state received less than that, but it was enough to keep farmers out of the fields. Melting water from the winter snows also helped delay things, but by itself the March thaw isn’t enough to put spring planting on a lengthy hold.

Last year, Minnesota also had heavy snow, but when it melted the rains held off so that soils dried and farmers could get moving. Maybe that type of weather will return this year. A little later, but soon? That little knot is loosening a bit.

One final number: 28. As in April 28. If you had to pick one day as the best possible day to plant corn, University of Minnesota Extension says that’s it.

Corn planted on that day, with good weather throughout the growing season, makes 208 bushels an acre. (OK, I guess a few more numbers.) If farmers plant two weeks later, by May 14, it’s 204 bushels. By May 26, production is off 15 percent, at 177 bushels per acre. In most years, that kind of a drop could mean the difference between making money and losing money on the crop.

Oh, my head.

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