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Published June 11, 2009, 05:42 AM

Farmers prepare for late crop

Fargo-area farmers are wrapping up spring planting this week, much later than normal. Now timely rains, favorable summer temperatures and a warm fall free of early frost are vital, one official says.

By: Jon Knutson and Craig McEwen, The Forum

FARGO

Area farmers are wrapping up spring planting this week, much later than normal.

Because the growing season will be shorter than usual, summer and fall weather need to cooperate for farmers to enjoy a good harvest.

“The crop is late. It’s got a lot of catching up to do,” said John Kringler, with the Cass County Extension Service.

Timely rains, favorable summer temperatures and a warm fall free of early frost are vital, he said.

In Minnesota, crops statewide are on schedule overall, although planting in the northwest has been slowed by wet weather, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

North Dakota’s crops on average aren’t nearly as advanced as normal, according to the USDA.

For instance, only 37 percent of soybeans in the state have emerged from the soil, compared with the five-year average of 69 percent, the USDA said.

However, crop maturity “varies from county to county and even township to township,” said Jay Nissen, a Larimore, N.D., farmer.

It’s uncertain how many acres won’t get planted this year.

But some farmers with unplanted acres are considering soybean varieties that mature relatively quickly, Kringler said.

Wednesday was the prevented-planting deadline for soybeans, typically the last of the region’s major crops to be planted.

Prevented-planting insurance provides financial protection when bad weather doesn’t allow a crop to be planted before a specific deadline.

Farmers eligible for prevented-planting payments on soybeans now can decide whether to take the payment or to plant soybeans.

It’s too soon to say how many farmers will collect on prevented planting, said Gary Ihry, president of Hope, N.D.-based Ihry Insurance Agency.

The amount that farmers collect in prevented planting can vary greatly, depending in part on their level of coverage, Ihry said.

Often, though, the amount they collect covers only part of their expenses.

Farmers will balance that amount against what they can earn planting and harvesting a field, Kringler said.

Complicating the decision is that yields of crops planted this late typically decline sharply.

For instance, soybean yields on average decline 0.6 percent per day for each day the crop is planted in North Dakota after late May, according to the North Dakota State University Extension Service.

Area farmers also could end up planting more sunflowers, said Larry Kleingarter, executive director of the Bismarck-based National Sunflower Association.

North Dakota is the nation’s leading producer of sunflowers.

“We’ve had sunflowers planted as late as June 20 and still had a very good crop,” Kleingartner said.

The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead and the Herald are Forum Communications Co. newspapers.

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