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Spence Koenig, left, of Direct Ag Supply works with a crew getting a corn planter ready to go on May 8, 2018, near St. Anthony, N.D. (Jenny Schlecht/Agweek)

'Mad dash' of planting is on in central ND

ST. ANTHONY, N.D. — The crew at Direct Ag Supply was at a farm here on May 8, helping get a new corn planter ready for the season. The plan was for a trial run later that day.

That is, if the rain held off long enough.

After a slow start that included few product deliveries in April, Spence Koenig says Direct Ag Supply has plenty to do these days.

"Now it's just a mad dash," he said.

Direct Ag Supply is a seed, chemical and fertilizer dealer that operates in about a 100-mile radius around the Bismarck-Mandan area. Koenig said the company has a few customers working on planting soybeans, and corn is just getting started. Wheat is probably halfway done being planted, he said.

Some people are contemplating moving away from small grains this year.

"With the later spring, we're getting acres switched to more corn, beans and sunflower sales have been up, too," Koenig said.

Though the light rain on the way seemed likely to delay planting another day, Koenig said the moisture is welcome.

"Any rain we can get, we'll take," he said.

The North Dakota Agricultural Weather Network website showed that the precipitation from scattered storms that moved through on May 7, 8 and 9 varied greatly across the state. In the first round of storms, on May 7, Wishek received half an inch, and Streeter had .38. Several places, including near Beach, Linton, Edgeley, Marion and Crary, received about a quarter of an inch.

The May 8 storms mostly brought moisture — a quarter to a half inch in many areas — to the Red River Valley, though Robinson received .33 and Bowman .37. The May 9 showers delivered no amounts higher in North Dakota than the .16 in Streeter and in Prosper.

Some places received next to nothing. National Weather Service data says Bismarck had .06 inches for the entire month of May as of the morning of May 10, and Hettinger had received .13 in that time frame.

The rain came in a week in which the U.S. Drought Monitor slightly expanded the portion of North Dakota considered to be abnormally dry, from 36.95 percent to 50.05 percent. The portion of the state experiencing drought conditions remained the same from the week prior, with 3.46 percent in severe drought and 35.55 percent in moderate drought. Only 10.94 percent of the state is considered to have adequate moisture.

Conditions seem drier to the west and south of the company's territory, Koenig said. But he thinks it's too soon to say what will happen with drought conditions.

"I think we're in better condition than we were last year at this time," he said. "We need some moisture to get everything up and growing."

Soybeans did well in last year's drought conditions, which has led to more people considering trying the crop, Koenig said. Crop insurance is available in the area now, and the county averages are up. He heard reports of soybeans going 20 to 35 bushels to the acres in the area in the 2017 growing season.