While soil temperatures had been acceptable for planting corn, most Minnesota growers were not in a big hurry to plant on the April 11, 2012 crop insurance start date.
Frost of 20-30 degrees on April 10-11 had farmers saying, “Whoa.”
The minimum temperature on April 10 was officially recorded at 21 degrees at the Southern Research and Outreach Center, Waseca. Temperatures also dropped to 23 degrees F during the early morning hours of April 11.
“The early spring advancement in vegetative growth has many concerned for plant damage,” said Mark Seeley, University of Minnesota climatologist via his April 13 WeatherTalk column. “It remains to be seen how many of the state’s apple orchards were adversely affected by the freezing temperatures.”
Fortunately, much of Minnesota received at least some rain on Friday, April 13. Seeley noted rainfall of one-half to one inch across southern Minnesota. Lighter totals fell along the western edge of Minnesota.
“Many Minnesota farmers are waiting for rain to replenish the dry soils that were a carryover from last year,” said Seeley.
He noted that Lamberton, Winnebago, Marshall, Granite Falls, St. James, Canby and Zumbrota were all 7.1-8.7 inches behind normal precipitation from Aug. 1, 2011 to April 11, 2012.
“The outlook for the remainder of April does not favor abundant rainfall in the state, with the possible exception of southeastern counties,” he said. “So by the end of April, we may see these precipitation deficits increase even more.”
On April 12 – ahead of the April 13 rain – farmers ran their rock pickers across the fields in Yellow Medicine County. In Redwood, Brown and Nicollet counties, poultry, dairy or hog manure or chemical was spread on fields. In Le Sueur and Rice counties, farmers worked their fields with articulated 4WD tractors. Some corn was planted as well.
Alfalfa near Waseca County and to the north showed signs of wilting following the April 10-11 freeze.
“Soil temperatures only dropped to 35 degrees, spring seeded crops should be fine,” said Tom Hoverstad, scientist. “Established alfalfa wilted because of the cold temperatures, but looks like it will recover with frost damage only on a few leaves.”
At the Waseca-based Research and Outreach Center, corn planted on March 28 had about 1 inch of coleoptile growth. A couple of warm days were all that was needed for emergence, Hoverstad said.
Near Trimont, Minn., Jonathan Scarfpin (Twitter name – @rubijon) sent a direct message to this assistant editor (Twitter name – @Andrea_MFG) that “most farmers started planting on April 6, and got a field or two in the ground before the rain.”
As of April 9, 49 percent of Minnesota oats were planted, with 4 percent emergence. About 25 percent of the spring wheat was planted, with 18 percent of the barley planted.
The April 16 report was expected to show a large increase in small grains seeding, and the start of corn planting.
Lizabeth Stahl, University of Minnesota Extension educator in crops from Worthington, reminded growers that it was still early in the planting season.
“Based on long-term planting data trials at the Southwest Research and Outreach Center in Lamberton, planting dates of April 21 to May 6, were on average within 1 percent of the optimal yield,” she said. “It may be difficult to hold off when field conditions are fit and the sun is shining, but keep in mind that waiting a bit yet will lower your risk of having to deal with stand establishment issues or stand losses that may result with very early planting dates.”
Agronomists from Syngenta reminded growers that dry soils from limited snow cover this past winter and high winds may have stripped certain soil nutrients.
“Low soil moisture could also impact the speed and rate of nutrient uptake by freshly planted crops,” the Syngenta agronomists said, adding that growers will want to keep on top of this as well as earlier and potentially higher pest pressure, and weed and disease pressure.
They encourage aggressive scouting in the weeks to come.
While Friday the 13th is usually considered a bad omen, farmers across Minnesota were pleased with April 13, 2012, because of the beneficial rain that was falling. Rainfall was predicted for the next few days as well.