Overall, crop conditions across most of the southern two-thirds of Minnesota have improved considerably in the past couple of weeks. In late May, many areas of southwest, south-central and central Minnesota were impacted by excessive rainfall, severe storms and some crop emergence problems; however, much of the crop has now recovered. There were some locations that had severe storms again in the past week with strong winds, hail and heavy rainfalls, with portions of southeastern Minnesota being impacted most significantly.
Most of the region has now received adequate rainfall during the months of May and June to recharge stored soil moisture to more normal levels. As we headed into the spring this year, there was a great deal of concern due to very low stored soil moisture levels, following a dry fall and a fairly dry early spring. There are a few isolated areas that have received less rainfall in 2012, and are still a bit on the dry side. The ample rainfall in the past month and the improved levels of stored soil moisture will likely be very beneficial later in the growing season.
As of June 1, stored soil moisture levels at the University of Minnesota (U of M) Research and Outreach Center at Waseca were at 10.21 in. in the top 5 ft. of soil, which is 92% of capacity for stored soil moisture. At the Southwest Minnesota U of M Research Center at Lamberton, the measured stored soil moisture was at 5.56 in., which is about 63% of capacity – a big improvement over the 3.09 in. of stored soil moisture on April 1. Lamberton has recorded 10.79 in. of rainfall since May 1 – more than double the normal rainfall. However, many of those rainfall events were very intense with considerable runoff, which limited the impacts on the stored soil moisture.
The combination of ample soil moisture, along with normal to above-normal temperatures is providing almost ideal growing conditions for corn and soybeans in mid-June. The growth pattern of both corn and soybeans are progressing at a rapid pace, and the crops look good to excellent in many areas, except those localities that were impacted by the severe storms. One problem with the frequent rainfall events in the past few weeks has been timely weed control for corn and soybeans. Most growers rely heavily on post-emergence herbicide applications for primary weed control, which are applied after both the crop and weeds are emerged. The numerous rainfalls, combined with several windy days, have greatly limited the ability of farm operators to make timely herbicide applications.
Many livestock producers have begun the second cutting of alfalfa in the past week, in order to gain the highest feed quality, while other hay producers are fighting wet field conditions and still trying to finish up their first cutting. The harvest of canning peas is also getting underway across southern Minnesota. A somewhat dryer weather pattern in the next couple of weeks would be helpful for both the hay and pea harvest, as well as for general crop growth across most of the region.