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Published August 19, 2013, 10:15 AM

Central Minn. crops look good

Minnesota corn is 61 percent in good to excellent condition, and the state’s soybeans are 63 percent in the two best condition categories, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service.

By: Mikkel Pates, Agweek

Minnesota corn is 61 percent in good to excellent condition, and the state’s soybeans are 63 percent in the two best condition categories, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service.

Sugar beets in the state are 74 percent good to excellent, with spring wheat ripening catching up to five-year averages, according to the NASS weekly report released Aug. 12. Despite dry conditions in August, topsoil and subsoil moisture ratings are 65 percent and 69 percent adequate.

Here’s what Agweek found on a recent CropStop trip through central Minnesota.

Bottom of the 9th

FAIRFAX, Minn. — Tom and Denise Palmer and their sons Scott and Brian raise sugar beets, corn, soybeans, canning peas and corn in Renville County. They also are dealers for Titan Pro SCI, which involves seed, chemical, fertilizer and insurance.

Most farmers in the Fairfax area planted late, says Palmer, who raises beets for Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative in Renville. He’s on the southern edge of the sugar beet growing region.

Palmer calculates that the crop is heading for average to above-average yields, depending on how it finishes. The crop suffered from two weeks of excessive moisture in June and a shortage after that — just more than an inch of rain in July and then almost nothing in August.

“It’s getting to the point where it’s dry again,” he says.

Still, the soybeans are pretty normal. Corn is of varying maturity. In mid-August, Palmer was starting to spray for soybean aphids. “We’re probably two weeks behind if the aphids are telling us anything,” he says.

There is concern about an early frost, but not much more than usual. The temperature dipped down to 44 degrees the morning of Aug. 14.

“Those temperatures tend to scare you on Sept. 10, and now we’re seeing them on Aug. 14,” Palmer says. “So it’s kind of the ‘full count and two outs in the bottom of the 9th,’ but we’ve got to finish. It’s all a game.”

‘Turn at the Churn’

NICOLLET, Minn. — Doug Schultz was taking a second-cutting on some pasture grass hay in late July when he took time for a CropStop visitor at his “Turn at the Churn” farm. It’s marked by a dairy churn from a creamery in nearby New Sweden, Minn., that his father acquired in the 1950s.

Schultz took over the farm from his father, Walter, in 1974 and milked cows until 1994. “The setup was getting too old to fix,” Schultz says. Since then, he’s raised heifers for other dairy farmers — usually during the summer but sometimes year-round. “I’m kind of a diversified crop farmer now,” he says.

He was getting about two and a half tons per acre on the second cutting on a pasture.

Schultz is unusual because he hasn’t grown field corn or soybeans for about seven years. He rents some land out, but on the 240 acres he farms, he typically has 180 acres of alfalfa. This year, all but 40 acres were winter-killed.

Schultz contract-sells alfalfa by the acre — mostly to a neighboring 240-head dairy. He sells some small square bales to smaller operators.

Alfalfa hay prices have been running double last year. A Davisco Food International Inc.-related dairy that is a few miles from his farm was hauling in hay and straw from Saskatchewan in late July and August.

Schultz says he likes to be different. He doesn’t have storage and handling facilities to take corn and soybeans. Instead, he grows fresh peas for canning. He grows winter wheat after peas and grows alfalfa and some sweet corn for Seneca Foods Corp. in Montgomery, Minn., which produces products under the Green Giant brand. This year, some of his peas were disked down and destroyed in late July because of root rot — too wet when he planted them, and too many weeds.

The “Turn at the Churn” highway sign advertises bulls for sale. His father was one of the pioneers and national promoters of the “Polled Holstein” breed in Minnesota. Walter sold breeding stock in the Dakotas, Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin. Beef breeds are largely polled — hornless — breeds, but Holsteins and other dairy breeds have to have the horns removed.

Doug keeps the sign but is out of the purebred business, in part because of fewer customers. When he started farming, there were 240 dairies in Nicollet County. When he quit, there were 120. Today there are 30.

Jack Frost, David Brown

VERNON CENTER, Minn. — Doug Krosch and his son, Adam, are primarily truckers. Together, they raise 300 acres of corn and soybeans on the side on land that’s been in the family since 1928. “We’re just small farmers,” Doug says.

Through mid-August, they’d received sporadic, needed showers. “We’ve had some extremely heavy dews at night, which have been beneficial,” Doug says. “I think we have a fairly decent crop, if only we can keep Jack Frost away.”

Some corn was planted on time, but a lot of it was under water twice — starting out short and yellow. Corn looked rough in late July, but was recovering in mid-August, but ears were slow to fill. “I truly believe we’re going to get a lot of corn dryers running this fall,” Doug says.

The Kroschs have an unusual red and white tractor Doug says his father bought in 1972. It was in a display at the first Farmfest and the World Plowing Contest that were held on the Bert Hanson farm near Vernon Center. Doug’s father, Orville, bought the David Brown 995 (65 horsepower) right from the show. Once a tillage tractor, the David Brown is now used mostly for power-take-off purposes.

“It sits on a (electric) generator all winter,” Doug says. The David Brown is extremely fuel efficient, augering all of the Kroschs’ corn into the bin on 10 gallons of diesel. “Years ago, when Grandpa custom-baled, he could bale all day on less than 5 gallons of diesel,” Adam says.

PP in northern Iowa

LAKOTA, Iowa — Jordan Valvick farms with his grandfather and two uncles near Lakota, Iowa, 18 miles south of the state line from Blue Earth, Minn. It’s been a challenging year, Valvick says. First, his 1,200-head hog nursery barn burned down on March 18.

Then, the Valvick family had a wet spring. They farm about 2,000 acres and took prevent-plant claims on about 400 acres. Many people in the area had taken the opportunity of failed crops to do some extra tiling.

One 140-acre field had grown up to weeds —mostly waterhemp — by late July. They sprayed it down with glyphosate and other herbicides, worked it in and then let the weeds die to hold the soil until they plow it in the fall.

Valvick thought soybeans were behind schedule in late July, but had perked up with some rains in mid-August.

“We could use some heat,” he says. Corn had improved in the second week of August, “other than the drown-out spots.”

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