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Published May 29, 2010, 12:05 AM

Farmers behind but catching up on planting

Farmers are behind their usual progress in planting and high-moisture fields are the main reason, according to a local farming expert. John Cairns, an agronomist in the Davison County office of the South Dakota State University Cooperative Extension Service, said rains made for unusually difficult planting conditions in the spring of 2009, and field conditions were even tougher this year.

By: Ross Dolan, The Daily Republic

Farmers are behind their usual progress in planting and high-moisture fields are the main reason, according to a local farming expert.

John Cairns, an agronomist in the Davison County office of the South Dakota State University Cooperative Extension Service, said rains made for unusually difficult planting conditions in the spring of 2009, and field conditions were even tougher this year.

“We went into the winter freeze wet, and this spring our soils were so loose and without structure that it was hard to even be on the fields,” he said.

Those farmers who planted during an early dry spell will come out fine, he said, though there were fears that early planting was premature. Then more rain arrived and further complicated the planting schedule.

“People who waited for a more ideal time are way behind the curve now, and when they’re behind on corn, they’ll be behind on their soybeans,” Cairns said.

According to a report issued this week by the National Agricultural and Statistics Service office in Sioux Falls, only 34 percent of the state’s soybeans have been planted, compared with the five-year average of 42 percent.

Reports show that 77 percent of corn is planted, but that’s behind the 79 percent mark for the same period in 2009 and well behind the state’s five-year average of 84 percent.

Cairns said that early on, area soils had no “carrying capacity” and field conditions that appeared ready for planting turned out to be traps for some farmers.

“I heard several people say that they thought it was time to go, but then they put their tractors out there and there was no bottom,” he said.

Extricating equipment from sometimes axle-deep mud slowed planting and created more field-preparation issues.

Mitchell area farmer Craig Stehly, who has been a no-till farmer since the mid-1980s, said corn residues and wet conditions have made planting tougher than usual.

“It’s a little delayed this year, but around the Mitchell area the weather’s been good and we’ve been getting a lot of planting,” Stehly said, “but conditions change every 20 miles.” Areas farther north are still drying out, he said.

Cairns said farmers have had to work their fields harder than normal this year to eliminate ruts created by combines last autumn.

“I think we’re catching up,” Cairns said. “Recent winds have been drying things out and things should be back to normal in a couple of weeks.”

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