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Steele County, Minnesota farmers making progress in the fields

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Posted: Saturday, May 18, 2013 12:00 pm | Updated: 5:56 pm, Sat May 18, 2013.

OWATONNA — A couple of weeks can make all the difference.

A couple of weeks with some sunshine, that is.

Steele County farmers were finally able to get into the fields and start planting this week after having to endure extended winter weather that caused a much later start to the season than they wanted.

Mike Donnelly, educator at the University of Minnesota’s Steele and Rice Counties extension office, said the dry weather has been important in allowing farmers to get out into the fields.

“This week especially, there have been several good days that have been great for getting out into the field,” Donnelly said on Friday. “With that said, there are still some fields that, after that huge snow fall we had and the wet spring we’ve had, are still a little too wet. I think farmers made due with what they had with the land that was workable, went out there and made significant progress this week.”

On Friday, Steele County was hit with more rain. Donnelly said the moisture was welcome, but would likely cause “a little bit” of a delay in planting.

Friday’s rain furthered an advantage that southeast Minnesota farmers have over the rest of the state.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor weekly report released on Thursday, southeast Minnesota — including Steele, Waseca, Rice, Dodge and Mower counties — is the only region of the state that isn’t experiencing any type of drought conditions.

“Bringing us out of that drought category is definitely a plus,” Donnelly said. “We were waiting for all this time for the drought to be lifted. I think it’s advantageous for farmers at this point. They’re starting at a good point and hopefully the moisture continues.”

More rain is expected this weekend. According to forecasts from the National Weather Service in Chanhassen, showers and thunderstorms are likely on Saturday night and Sunday. There is at least a 20 percent chance of rain every day until Thursday next week, the furthest out the forecasts extends.

For the seed that did get planted this week, the moisture is certainly an advantage.

“For the crop that did make it in the ground this week and the rain that we got (Friday), I think they will hopefully partner well together and get things going on a nice track here,” Donnelly said.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, only 18 percent of the corn in Minnesota had been planted through the week ending May 12, which falls before the warm, dry weather that the state saw this week. Last year, 86 percent of the corn had been planted and the five-year average for this time of year is 68 percent. The USDA reports only 2 percent of soybeans has been planted, well below the five-year average of 26 percent.

Donnelly said on Friday that good yields are expected for corn that is planted before Memorial Day weekend.

“We’re at a point where we need to get the crop in the ground. With that said, we’ve seen great yields come from late planting and we’ve seen great yields come from early planting,” Donnelly said. “It really depends upon the year, and it’s really going to depend on what the summer brings. It is a time that we should be working to get the crop in the ground, but there is still no reason to panic and I don’t think that the yields will be detrimental.”

Reach reporter Al Strain at 444-2376 or follow him on

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