MARSHALL - Minnesota farmers are used to dealing with extreme field conditions the past two years, but with much of the planting season under way already, they're breathing a sigh of relief after much-needed rain showered the area this past week.
According to the weekly crop weather report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, southwest Minnesota received an average of 4.5 inches of rain from the spring storms, slowing fieldwork, but improving overall soil conditions for the future.
"We needed it," said Shannon Ernst, soil conservationist with the Lyon County Soil and Water Conservation District. "It would have been better if it wasn't such a gush of it, though. As far as the drought rainfall, we're still about four inches behind, but at least it has helped for this year."
Compared to a week ago, topsoil moisture conditions have improved across the state. The report revealed that only 11 percent of the state is now short (10 percent) or very short (1 percent) on topsoil moisture in comparison to 20 percent last week. In addition, parts of the state with a topsoil moisture surplus grew from 3 percent to 18 percent in a week's time.
"A lot of the corn has already been put in," Ernst said. "Some gutsy people even put soybeans in. I haven't really heard too much about erosion. It's mostly about some of their drain tiles not being able to handle all the rainfall."
Corn planting in Minnesota is way ahead of schedule, with 73 percent completed, compared to 20 percent at this time last year and 53 percent for the five-year average.
"The corn growing shouldn't be a problem unless a hard crust forms on the soil surface," Ernst said. "That happens if it warms up quickly and bakes when it's wet. Hopefully, we'll have a gradual drying. I don't see a widespread problem. It's mostly good."
Those who planted in mid-April may have some concerns with too wet of conditions for corn, but for most, Ernst said, germination hasn't occurred yet.
"Fields seem to be draining down quickly," she said. "As long as it doesn't cause any mold problems, it should be OK."
Soybeans are slightly ahead of schedule, with 19 percent currently planted, compared with 4 percent planted last year and a 13 percent average, the report said.
"Because the growing season is so much shorter than corn, farmers can be more selective with soybeans," Ernst said. "Most don't want to run the risk of losing their crop, so they haven't planted soybeans yet. Hopefully, if the next couple of days are nice, farmers will be back out in the fields next week."
Other Minnesota crops also appear to be well ahead of the five-year planting average, with 97 percent of oats planted (five-year average of 62 percent), 99 percent of spring wheat planted (48), 97 percent of barley planted (43), 98 percent of sugarbeets planted (53) and 83 percent of potatoes planted (49).
"Hopefully, we'll have some dry weather now to keep things growing and some good summer showers later on," Ernst said. "That would be ideal."