Free Press Staff Writer
LE SUEUR — Monday at 3 p.m. was the “magic hour” for John and Tyler Sunderman.
Judy Sunderman was at home, not yet aware of her husband and son’s last-minute change in plans. They had gone ahead and made an annual decision about the family’s livelihood.
“OK, it’s time,” the rural Le Sueur farmers had agreed. They then began planting their 2013 corn crop.
“We have two 24-row planters and we can do 35 acres an hour,” John Sunderman said Monday afternoon. Like most other Minnesota crop growers, the Sundermans have put off planting this year, waiting for the weather to warm up and the snow to stop falling. (More snow is in the forecast this week.)
Field corn needs a minimum soil temperature of 55 degrees to germinate. The University of Minnesota Southern Research and Outreach Center in Waseca recorded soil temperatures (at 2 inches) of 51 degrees Sunday and 61 degrees Tuesday. Soil temperatures at that depth generally are close to the current air temperature.
In its weekly crops and weather report for the state, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says Minnesota farmers have managed to begin only very limited field work, mainly on higher ground and well-drained fields.
In the Le Sueur area, neighbor Craig Schwarz will be working alongside Sunderman throughout this week, planting 98-day hybrid seed corn into sandy soil.
Schwarz is more cautious about putting in his own acres — he plans to take care of half of his 80 acres this week, then will finish the second half after the weather improves.
“It’s a bigger risk for him,” Sunderman said.
Rural Lake Crystal farmer John Greenough and his sons, Mike and Matt, decided they would take a gamble on the weather. They went into the field about 4 p.m. Monday with their 90-foot planter and by Tuesday afternoon had most of their 300 acres of corn in.
“We don’t know if it’s the right or wrong thing to do. It’s a chance we have to take,” Greenough said.
“Last year, we waiting for the ideal situation and I think we shortchanged ourselves a bit.”
Despite the late start, experts say there’s still time to plant. Corn yields in Minnesota don’t typically suffer unless planting is delayed past mid-May, although there’s some concern about the impact on yields for spring wheat and other small grains.
Greenough has a down-to-earth attitude about the risk he is taking this year.
“I just wanted to get it done before the next weather event starts.”
“Who knows, this could be the best planting ever — or the worst planting.”
This article contains information from The Associated Press.