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Progress on planting, but more is needed

In a normal year, most Upper Midwest farmers have finishing planting, or nearly so, by early June. This isn't a normal year.

Despite solid planting progress by some farmers in the week ending May 26, overall area planting remains far behind average, especially in South Dakota, according to the updated crop progress report released May 28 by the National Agricultural Statistics Service, an arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

An exceptionally late spring delayed the start of planting this year, with widespread May rains further hampering and slowing planting. Early planted crops generally yield better than late-planted ones, so the planting delays deeply concern farmers with unplanted fields.

South Dakota is particularly hard hit. Only 25% of its corn — or one acre in four — was planted on May 26; 90% or corn, or 9 acres in 10, was planted on average on that date in 2014-2018. And only 2% of South Dakota corn had emerged from the ground on May 26, compared with the five-year average for that date of 57%.

Soybeans can be planted safely later than corn, so many area farmers are now considering planting beans on fields originally intended for corn. Another possible option is planting corn varieties with shorter maturities; the downside of shorter-maturity corn is that such varieties typically yield less.

Here's a closer look at spring wheat, corn and soybeans, the region's three major crops.

Spring wheat

Spring wheat, a cool-season grass, typically fares best when it reaches maturity before late-summer heat, which can cut sharply into yields.

Montana: 83% of spring wheat was planted on May 26, up from 69% a week earlier. The five-year average for May 26 was 91%.

Minnesota: 87% of spring wheat was in the ground on May 26, up from 76% a week earlier. The five-year average for May 26 was 92%.

North Dakota: 82% of spring wheat was planted on May 26, up from 66% a week earlier. The five-year average for May 26 was 87%.

South Dakota: 79% of spring wheat was planted on May 26, up from 70% a week earlier. The five-year average for May 26 was 97%.

Corn

Minnesota: 66% of corn was planted on May 26, up from 56% a week earlier. The five-year average for May 26 was 93%.

North Dakota: 63% of corn was in the ground on May 26, up from 42% a week earlier. The five-year average for May 26 was 85%.

South Dakota: 25% of corn was planted on May 26, up from 19% a week earlier. The five-year average for May 26 was 90%.

Soybeans

Soybeans usually are the last of the region's major crops to be planted, so planting progress of beans trails that of spring wheat and corn.

North Dakota: 46% of soybeans was planted on May 26, up from 24% a week earlier. The five-year average for May 26 was 65%.

South Dakota: Just 6% of soybeans was planted on May 26, up marginally from 4% a week earlier. The five-year average for May 26 was 64%.

Minnesota: 35% of soybeans was in the ground on May 26, up from 22% a week earlier. The five-year average for May 26 was 77%.