After a wet spring and early summer, southeastern Minnesota crops are finally starting to catch up to where they should be at the end of July. However, the growth of most crops is behind the five-year average.
Reuters reported at the end of May: "This year's U.S. planting delays have been caused by persistently wet weather on top of a record-wet off season that saturated the soils."
In Minnesota, the story is no different. Local crops have been hurt by the above average rainfall.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the five-year average start date for planting corn in Minnesota is mid-April. In 2019, about 6% of Minnesota's corn was planted by May 5, which was 17 days later than the five-year average.
This delay was greatly due to the weather conditions this spring. During all of May, there were about 15 days that were suitable for field work, according to the USDA. In Goodhue County, every week in May saw between .5 and 2.5 inches of rain.
July has been much drier than May and June, with 21.2 days suitable for fieldwork from July 1-29. This has resulted in soybeans and corn blooming/growth growing closer to the five-year average, though it has yet to be reached.
As of July 28, 54% of Minnesota's corn was silking (the five-year average for July 28 is 81%) and 69% of soybeans were blooming (the five-year average for July 28 is 85%).
While most crops are still behind the average timeline for growing (Minnesota's spring wheat and barley are currently the only exceptions) last week saw almost ideal moisture conditions. The USDA reported that 70% of the state's subsoil had adequate moisture while 25% percent had a surplus and 5% was short or very short. In comparison, the week ending on May 28 had a subsoil that was 46% adequate, 52% had a surplus and 2% was short or very short.
The Minnesota Department of Agriculture reported in early June that the spring weather has been hard for many local farmers, but they still hope to see people attending farmers markets statewide. The Department of Agriculture also quoted Jerry Unteidt, a farmer from central Minnesota, who noted:
"People should be aware that we are counting on their support, and we are counting on a little bit more aggressive purchasing on their behalf because the selling season is reduced. You have to remember that it's the weather after the crops are planted that matters, not before."
Looking to the future
While Minnesota's 2019 crops appear to be climbing closer to normal timelines of growth, some people predict that wet springs and early summers will become the norm in Minnesota, resulting in more challenges for farmers. Organizations such as the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the USDA, the Scientific American, and the Environmental Defense Fund predict that the Midwest will see an increase in extreme weather, including heat waves and flooding in the coming years.
The Union of Concerned Scientists predicts that if current trends carry on, Minnesota agriculture will continue to be hit. These threats could include:
• More heat stress
• The growth of more pests (for example, rootworm and European corn borer) due to warmer winters and growing seasons.
• Wetter springs and drier summers
Though Minnesota farmers could have a harder time reaching full yields in future years, organizations like the USDA and DNR say they are working to create programs and insurances for farmers in Minnesota and across the country.