April 29, 2014

Anxiously waiting the arrival of Spring

By Kate Ruggles
Farmer Staff Writer

Last year left area producers little time to get their ground seeded. What wasn’t hindered by late cold temperatures and snow was halted by late spring rainfall. But this year’s spring weather has producers seeding earlier than last season, meaning they are less panicked.    
“Most area producers have been waiting to get started, because the ground temperatures have not been optimal,” states Kyle Hartel, District Conservationist with the USDA/NRCS. “But it is still early, so no one is frantic yet.”
Hartel states that the minimum optimal ground temperature for cool season grasses, which are barley, wheat and oats, to germinate is 40 degrees.
“As of April 23, ground temperatures in McKenzie County reached  47 degrees,” states Hartel.
Hartel states that the 40 degree temperature mark indicates an optimal planting window; however, it can also mean that the likelihood of having a plant-killing frost is decreased. But not necessarily.
“A colder spring can bring the worry of a frost, which is extremely bad for crops,” states Hartel. “But when ground temperatures are above 40 degrees, the chance of having a killing frost decreases. But I have seen killing frost as late as Memorial Day, so there are no guarantees.”
Hartel states that because ground temperatures only just warmed past the 40 degree mark, most producers have been waiting to get into their fields. But he feels that farming will ramp up very quickly in the next week across the county.
Owen Hamre, who farms south of Arnegard, was one of the local farmers who got into the fields last week.
“It is a little later than I would like to be starting, but last year I started planting on April 28 and this year I began on April 24, so I am earlier than last year,” states Hamre. “The conditions were cold and wet until a few days ago. And the ground wasn’t quite ready, and I was not quite ready either.”
Hamre states that during last year’s spring planting season, he not only got started late, but once he started he was stopped by two to three weeks of spring rain. This year he is thankful to be starting early and is hopeful to get all his ground seeded before it is too late.
“This year it would be nice to have about a month of decent weather so we can get all our crops in,” states Hamre.
Last year, Joel Ransom, an NDSU Extension agronomist stated that one of the concerns with planting cool season crops late is that it might compromise their yields. Ransom states that the optimum planting dates range from the second week in April for southern counties to the first week in May for counties bordering Canada. According to Ransom, there is a three- to four-week window beyond the optimum planting dates where reasonable yields can still be achieved.
So far, however, that is not a concern for Hamre or Hartel, who both feel that their seeding is going well so far.
“I thought it might be too wet, but the conditions are just about ideal,” states Hamre. “We just need a little less wind and a little more sunshine.”
Hartel states that producers will be planting their cool season crops first, which are barley, wheat, oats, peas, lentils and canola. Once they are in the ground, they will begin planting their warm season crops.