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Clint Magnus monitors urea fertilizer being loaded into his Terragator near Pipestone, Minn., in April 2017. (Forum News Service/Agweek/Mikkel Pates)

Small but meaningful planting progress

That noise you hear in the Upper Midwest is the roar of tractors in fields and the collective sigh of relief from anxious farmers. The spring planting season has finally begun in earnest after being delayed by weeks of cold, wet weather.

Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota farmers made small but meaningful progress in the week ending April 29, according to the weekly planting progress report released April 30 by the National Agricultural Statistics Service, an arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Most of the progress came in wheat, usually the first of the region's three major crops (soybeans and corn are the others) to be planted:

Minnesota — Two percent of the spring wheat was planted on April 29, up from 0 percent a week earlier but below the five-year average of 34 percent for April 29.

Montana — Six percent of spring wheat was planted on April 29, up from 0 percent a week earlier but below the five-year average of 37 percent on April 29.

North Dakota — Three percent on spring wheat was planted on April 29, up from 0 percent a week earlier but below the five-year average of 22 percent on April 29.

South Dakota — Twelve percent of spring wheat was planted on April 29, up from 2 percent a week earlier but below the five-year average of 63 percent.

A small percentage of Upper Midwest oats and barley also was planted on April 29, though their planting paces also trail their respective five-year averages.

Keep in mind that the five-year averages are skewed by several years of unusually early planting starts. So farmers aren't as far behind on planting as it might appear.

NASS reports that no corn or soybeans had been planted in the Dakotas or Minnesota by April 29. Typically, a small percentage of both crops are in the ground by the end of April.

The NASS numbers, which measure only planting, don't reflect tillage or fertilizer application. Anecdotal reports indicate that many Upper Midwest farmers were working their fields in the week of April 29, though they didn't plant crops.

If the weather continues to cooperate, pre-planting field work during the past week should enable a big jump in planted acres in the May 7 planting progress report.