A late spring planting wraps up in southern Minnesota

It was a late start to planting this year but southern Minnesota is just about wrapped up, said Jeff Coulter, University of Minnesota Extension corn agronomist.

Donovan planting.jpg
Corn planting in southeastern Minnesota got off to a slower start in 2022 than in past years.
Noah Fish / Agweek file photo
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ST. JAMES, Minn. ― For farmers in southern Minnesota, it's better late than never when it comes to planting crops.

Harold Wolle and his son, Matthew, farm corn and soybeans in St. James in southwest Minnesota. Harold Wolle said they farm a couple thousand acres of about 60% corn and 40% soybeans.

May 24 was their final day of planting for both corn and soybeans.

"We got started in the first part of May, and then we had three one-and-a-half day windows during the month," he said of working days this spring. "And now finally, we had a stretch, we were able to go for about five days, and that really made a difference."

Conditions while planting went from lacking to adequate, said Wolle.


"When we started planting, soils would be a little marginal, and kind of wet underneath but the top of the soil would be dry," he said. "And then as planting progressed, we got pretty good conditions finally."

To be finishing up planting in late May is pretty far behind schedule of where they'd like to be, said Wolle.

"I've always said we sure want to have the soybeans planted by May 20th, and usually like to have that corn done in April," said Wolle of their planting goals. "So to be sitting here on the 24th of May, and just finishing up our corn, is significantly behind where we want to be."

Jeff Coulter, University of Minnesota Extension corn agronomist, said it was a late start to planting this year but southern Minnesota is just about wrapped up.

"Most of southern Minnesota has been planted, and corn is starting to emerge," said Coulter on May 24.

There were some pockets in southwest Minnesota — near Lamberton — where Coulter said there were very few working days this spring due to the spots continuously picking up rain.

"Even those areas where the planting was delayed, they were able to get most of that finished up last week," said Coulter.

He said it's important to remember that even though the planting season was late to start this year, it wasn't too late, and spring was just a couple of weeks late to arrive in southern Minnesota.


"When we look at what's going on in nature, and look at the trees and the grass, and how that's greened up and growing — we really weren't that terribly late with getting the crop in," said Coulter of spring planting. "I think we need to take that into account, that it's really not as bad as what people think."

Weed control

Wolle said once planting has finished, the next phase of farming crops — weed control — begins.

"We have our preemergence herbicide on all our acres," said Wolle. "And we've had good rain to activate those herbicides, so we're confident that they'll do their job, but the weeds are still growing, there's no doubt about it."

Liz Stahl, University of Minnesota Extension educator, said that in years like this, when time is tight, it can be temping for farmers to forgo a preemergence herbicide. But she said, effective preemergence herbicides are "critical for control" of problem weeds like waterhemp, especially when many waterhemp populations in the state are resistant to multiple postemergence herbicides.

Coulter echoed that advise.

"It's important that the farmers use preemergence herbicides for corn, even with the flurry of field activity with few working days," he said. "That's something that's important not to skip, even in the year when there is a very tight window not a lot of time available for planting and other field activities."

Yield expectations

Coulter said despite the late planting season, he believes the yield potential for southern Minnesota is still "quite high."

"Many fields may have maximum yield potential, and others may be within a few percentage points," said Coulter. "I'm pretty optimistic to the year, for fields where the corn was planted by May 12."


Coulter said corn planted after May 12 still has pretty good yield potential, but it may start to decline a little bit.

For farmers who haven't gotten their corn crop in, Coulter said it needs to get in quickly.

"And it's going to have less yield potential," he said.

But for most of the corn, which has been in for a while now, Coulter said there's so much of the season that's left.

"It's really going to depend a lot on what the weather conditions are like during the 12 to 14 days before tasseling," said Coulter. "And then the two weeks after the tassels emerge, that's the critical period for corn."

He said during that time, if we can avoid moisture, stress from too dry of conditions and high temperatures, crops will be in good shape.

"That'll set us up for a good a good year," he said.

From the data that Wolle has seen, he expects a decrease in yield for their late planted corn.

"University (of Minnesota Extension) trials are saying the best we could probably hope for, at this date, is 90% or maybe a little better," said Wolle. "Although that summertime weather is a huge determinant of what the final yield is going to be."

But Wolle said considering a late planting season, he was looking forward to a nice fall.

"If we can get a warm September with enough moisture, and get some good green fill in September, that's huge," he said.

Wolle's hopes for the summer were the same as they always are.

"I want an inch of rain every Saturday night, so I can go to church on Sunday morning and give thanks," he said.

Noah Fish is a multimedia journalist who creates print, online and TV content for Agweek. He's also the host of the Agweek Podcast.

While covering agriculture he's earned awards for his localized reporting on the 2018 trade war, and breaking news coverage of a fifth-generation dairy farm that was forced to sell its herd when a barn roof collapsed in the winter of 2019. His reporting focuses on the intersection of agriculture, food and culture.

He reports out of Rochester, Minnesota, and can be reached at
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