After unseasonably cool weather in April led to a late planting season, alarmingly dry conditions hindered the potential for crop growth. However, crucial recent rains appear to have helped many farmers get back on track for a respectable crop.
With inflation and rising input costs coupled with markets that have certainly been volatile, it’s been clear from the start that the stakes of this year’s planting season are even greater than usual.
From that perspective, the end of July marked a particularly crucial turning point for local crop farmers. Whether it’s corn in the process of silking or soybeans in the process of flowering, local crops are much in need of healthy levels of sun and moisture.
Statewide, the crop report for the week ending July 24 showed fields finally turning the corner after several dry weeks. Thanks to rains, which it said provided “much needed moisture,” it reported that more than three-quarters of Minnesota fields had at least adequate moisture. The numbers dropped a bit for the week ending July 31, with 71% of topsoil and 76% of subsoil moisture at least adequate.
Even with the recent rains, over a third of the state’s corn and beans were rated in fair or worse condition as of July 31.. Still, dramatic surges in crop development brought corn silking and soybean blooming to levels close to the five-year average.
Steele County farmer Joe Stransky said that, prior to those rains, his crops had endured several weeks of minimal moisture. After stagnating during that time, he said the rains led to a strong growth spurt for his crops over the last week.
“It was a big sigh of relief to get more than 1/10th inch of rain at a time,” he said. “That’s been very beneficial at a crucial time.”
Rural Le Sueur farmer Dave Pfarr said that, for the most part, the region’s high-quality soil has been able to compensate for the dry weather, holding enough water to allow for crops to endure the lack of consistent rainfall.
Yet even with the much-needed rain, Pfarr conceded some local crops are showing signs of stress. Stransky noted that because their root system doesn’t go as deep, soybeans struggled more to weather the lasting drought.
Other local farmers would like an extra inch or two of rain, particularly those further to the west. Nicollet County farmer Dean Compart said that, while temperatures have dropped to more favorable levels, his fields remain dry.
“The crop looks good, but it’s starting to show signs of stress, and an inch of rain would be very valuable,” he said.
While the impact of local rains has been inconsistent, Compart noted that, as during last year’s dry spell, western Minnesota is, in general, particularly hurting for moisture, and North and South Dakota are in even worse shape.
In large part because parts of the Midwest remain so dry, prices on corn and beans look set to post a strong rebound after falling over June and July. Last week, soybean prices rebounded by their largest amount in a year, and corn prices by their largest amount in five months.
If dry conditions continue to impact much of the Midwest, commodity prices could be set to rise even higher. That could be a boon for local farmers, like Steele County’s Dan Deml, who is anticipating an average to above average crop even after all of the volatility.
Prior to that strong rebound last week, commodity prices had been drifting downward throughout the summer, leaving farmers in a tight spot. Deml noted that the sheer amount of uncertainty was likely a factor in depressing the markets.
“A lot of uncertainty tends to lead to lower markets,” he noted. At this moment, local crop farmers have an optimistic, if still skeptical, outlook for 2022 yields and sales.