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Planting has begun, but rain is needed

Small grains planting is off to a strong strong in the Upper Midwest, especially South Dakota. But more precipitation is needed badly because of what has been widening drought.

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Erin Ehnle Brown / Grand Vale Creative LLC

South Dakota wheat farmers are making unusually rapid planting progress planting. But the farmers wouldn't mind shutting down for a few days to receive much-needed rain in what has been worsening drought .

"We could use it. It would be welcome," said Reid Christopherson, executive director of the South Dakota Wheat Commission

Planting has begun in much of the Upper Midwest. Oats, barley and spring wheat , crops that typically fare best when planted early and that mature before late-summer heat, account for most of the planting, according to the latest crop progress report from the National Agricultural Statistics Service, an arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The report, issued April 12, reflected conditions on April 11. Rain and snow were falling in parts of the region when this Agweek article was being prepared, and it wasn't clear yet how much benefit the new moisture will bring.

Planting progress always is watched carefully. But the regional drought, which will influence what farmers plant and when they plant it, most likely will put even more attention on the weekly reports.

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In general, planting progress so far is ahead of the five-year average, especially in South Dakota, where the climate typically allows earlier planting than do conditions in North Dakota, Minnesota and Montana.

As of April 11, South Dakota farmers had planted 30% of their spring wheat. That's more than double the 13% planting rate they averaged in the five years from 2016-20. Five-year averages are watched closely in area agriculture because they can provide a broader, more reliable measure than simply what happened in the previous year alone.

While more moisture would appreciated, too much precipitation could work against spring wheat acreage in South Dakota, Christopherson said.

"There's a fine line. Moisture would help, but we don't want too much, either," he said. Not only would the latter delay spring wheat planting, it also could cause some South Dakota farmers to switch some fields from wheat to corn, which generally is planted later in the growing season.

Here's a look at planting progress for crops grown in the area. All numbers are for March 11.

Spring wheat

Minnesota — 7% was in the ground, up from the five-year average of 2%.

Montana — 6% was planted, up from the five-year average of 5%.

North Dakota — 8% was planted, up from the five-year average of 7%.

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Barley

Minnesota — 3% was in the ground, up from the five-year average of 1%.

North Dakota — 3% was planted, up from the five-year average of 1%.

Montana — 8% was planted, up from the five-year average of 7%.

Oats

Iowa — 37% was planted, compared with the five-year average of 21%.

Minnesota — 19% was in the ground, up from the five-year average of 5%.

North Dakota — 2% was planted, up from the five-year average of 1%.

South Dakota — 20% was planted, up from the five-year average of 13%.

Sugar beets

Minnesota — 1% was in the ground, down from the five-year average of 3%.

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North Dakota — 5% was planted, up from the five-year average of 1%.

Corn

Iowa — 1% was planted, compared with the five-year average of 0%.

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