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Planting on schedule in spite of dry soil

Soil tillage is ahead of schedule and spring planting should proceed as planned, though nobody is planning to jump the gun

April 5, 2012
By Steve Browne , Marshall Independent

MARSHALL - Spring is here, the soil is prepared, now all farmers can do is plant the seed and pray for rain.

An early spring may mean a long growing season, but the moisture deficit from last year means the soil profile will need a lot of water, soon.

"It's pretty dry," said Shannon Ernst, soil conservationist with the Lyon County Soil and Water Conservation District. "This year we're already short six to seven inches on top of the shortfall from last season."

According to Jeff Holcomb, director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Marshall office tillage is ahead of schedule.

"We're ahead of schedule for tillage work, and will be on time for planting," Holcomb said, "but moisture is short and farmers are looking for rain."

Don DeVos has been farming all his life on the farm outside of Marshall his father owned. But this year he may have to fall back on his catering business, because for the first time he's not certain he'll get a crop.

"In all the years I've been farming I've never seen it this dry," DeVos said. "Right now I wouldn't attempt to plant my corn. There's not enough moisture to see it sprout."

The federal government sets dates for planting that mark the earliest date federally subsidized crop insurance will cover replanting after a catastrophic loss such as a late frost, according to Terry Christianson, owner of Christianson Crop Insurance in Tyler.

The earliest planting date for corn is April 11, for soybeans April 21.

"They can plant before, but would lose replant coverage," Christianson said. "That would mean if their crop failed their losses wouldn't be covered. Most guys coming in here are going to wait and plant in mid-April."

According to Ernst the best thing to happen now would be six to seven inches of rain spread out over a few weeks after planting to fill the soil profile and allow seed to germinate. But once it rains, the crop prospects should be good because of the water retention characteristics of the local soil.

"We're lucky in this area because this used to be prairie around here, and farmers have done a really good job of conserving the organic matter with their tillage styles," Ernst said. "Organic soil holds water really well."



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