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Published May 10, 2011, 10:38 AM

Slow go on area planting

It’s getting late, and area farmers are getting nervous.

By: Jonathan Knutson, Agweek

It’s getting late, and area farmers are getting nervous.

Wet fields and unusually cool soil temperatures have delayed planting in the Upper Midwest this spring. There’s still plenty of time to get in the crop, but fieldwork needs to get started in earnest by the middle of May.

“We really want to see them going by May 15, says Larry Wagner, Minnehaha County agronomist with the South Dakota Extension Service in Sioux Falls, S.D.

In the region

Here are a few examples of the slow start to planting this year. The numbers come from the most recent report by the National Agricultural Statistics Service, an arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture:

- In South Dakota, 2 percent of corn is seeded, compared with the five-year average of 15 percent.

- In Minnesota, 2 percent of sugar beets is planted, compared with the five-year average of 47 percent.

- In Montana, 13 percent of barley is planted, compared with the five-year average of 50 percent.

- In North Dakota, 1 percent of spring wheat is planted, compared with the five-year average of 32 percent.

NASS predicted last week that planting in North Dakota wouldn’t get started in earnest until May 8, 20 days later than the five-day average.

That average is skewed somewhat by an unusually early start in 2010, but there’s no denying that farmers in the state normally get rolling in mid or late April.

Covering ground

Still, keep the slow start in perspective. Thanks to big, modern equipment, ag producers can plant a lot of acres quickly when conditions permit, Wagner says.

“They throw those big planters out there, and they get a lot done,” he says.

It’s still uncertain if many farmers will alter their planting intentions because of the slow start.

Adam Spelhaug, with Peterson Farms Seeds in Harwood, N.D., in the eastern part of the state, doesn’t anticipate that farmers in his company’s trade area will switch from corn in their rotation.

However, producers almost certainly will switch to varieities that mature sooner, he says.

Even if the next few weeks don’t go well for area farmers, catastrophe isn’t necessarily looming, Wagner says.

Crops and the planting season often turn out better that expected, he says.

“Just when you think it’s a disaster, things turn around,” he says.