Noah Hultgren, who's farmed since the turn of the century, stops to think when asked to name the last year that his crop was off to such a good start.
"Well, It's been a while," the Willmar, Minn., farmer said after some consideration. "We're blessed by how this year is going."
Hultgren, who farms in south-central Minnesota, is representative of many Upper Midwest farmers, especially ones in Minnesota, Iowa and South Dakota, this spring. Planting of key crops, particularly corn and soybeans, is well ahead of schedule in much of the region., according to the weekly crop progress report released June 1 by the National Agricultural Statistics Service, an arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The report, which reflected conditions on May 31, showed continued rapid planting progress in much of the region, with planting wrapped up, or virtually so, in most of the area. For example, corn planting is on the home stretch in Minnesota, South Dakota and Iowa, with above-average planting progress for soybeans in those states.
North Dakota remains the painful exception. An exceptionally wet fall, followed by uncooperative winter and spring weather, has plagued farmers in the state. Planting of corn, wheat and soybeans is far behind schedule for early June, and some fields won't get planted at all.
Hultgren is all too familiar with planting delays. His 2019 crop season suffered from difficult planting conditions, and he's struggled with uncooperative weather in some other recent springs.
"So we really appreciate this year," he said.
Hultgren raises corn, soybeans, kidney beans, sugar beets and sweet corn. He's still waiting to plant the sweet corn, but has the rest of his crop in the ground. Apart from replanting 10 acres of sugar beets, planting went well, thanks to favorable weather conditions.
Relatively dry conditions that boosted planting have left many of his fields relatively short of topsoil moisture, however. Subsoil moisture remains adequate, but an inch or more of rain in the near future would be welcome, he said.
On the early June day that he spoke with Agweek, temperatures were expected to soar to 90 degrees, increasing the importance of precipitation
In any case, he's grateful for the strong start to the 2020 crop season.
"The way farming is now, we really need to have good yields," which this year's crop has the potential to bring, Hultgren said.
Here's a look at other crop grown in the region:
Montana: 97% was planted by May 31, compared with the five-year average of 95% for that date.
Minnesota: 97% was in the ground by May 31 compared with an average of 98% for that date.
North Dakota: 85% was planted by May 31, down substantially from an average of 95% for that date.
South Dakota: 99% was planted by May 31, up from an average of 96% for that date.
Iowa: 98% was planted on May 31, up from an average of 94% for that date.
Minnesota: 99% was in the ground on May 31, compared with an average of 93% for that date.
North Dakota: 75% was planted on May 31, compared with an average of 90% for that date.
South Dakota: 94% was planted on May 31, up from an average of 84 % for that date.
Minnesota: 95% was planted by May 31, up sharply from an average of 82% for that date.
North Dakota: Just 51% of the crop was planted by May 31, down from an average 80% for that date.
South Dakota: 80% of soybeans was planted by May 31, up from an average of 60% for that date.
Iowa: 95% was planted by May 31, up from an average of 75% for that date.,
Sugar beet planting was virtually wrapped up in both Minnesota and North Dakota.