As we reach the end of May, crop conditions vary across the local region, just as crop conditions vary widely across the entire country. There are areas of southern Minnesota and northern Iowa that have good to excellent development of the 2007 corn and soybean crop, while other areas have been hit with excessive rainfall and hail in the past couple of weeks. Still, other areas have almost totally missed the rain, and are now starting to get very dry. Locally, the greatest impacts from the excessive rains and hail occurred in southern Blue Earth County and in portions of Faribault County.

Interestingly, at the University of Minnesota Southern Research Center at Waseca, the accumulation of growing degree units (GDUs) from May 1-23, 2007, was 81% above the GDU accumulation in the same period in 2006, and 34% above normal GDU accumulation for the first 23 days of May. The much warmer than normal temperatures, combined with early planting dates and adequate soil moisture, have led to very good early growing season conditions in many areas. As a result, corn and soybean development in much of south central Minnesota is ahead of normal for late May.

As of May 23, total rainfall in May at the Waseca research site totaled only 1.26 in., which is 1.7 in. below normal. Rainfall from April 1 through May 23 at Waseca totaled only 3.12 in., which ranks among the 10 driest years in that period during the 93-year history of the Waseca Research Center. The available stored soil moisture in the top 5 ft. of soil at Waseca was still measured at 92% of capacity in the most recent measurement; however, some the upper portions of the soil profile have dried out considerably. If we do not get adequate recharge of the soil moisture in the top part of the soil profile, there could be some issues later in the growing season. Some of the dry weather concerns were temporarily alleviated by the 1.11 in. of rain that fell at Waseca on May 24.

The rapid growth of the corn crop in many areas has been accompanied by rapid growth and development of weeds. This has led to a need for timely application of post-emergence weed control, which has been a challenge in the past couple of weeks due to strong winds across the region and frequent rainfall in some areas. With newer seed genetics, a large percentage of herbicide applications for weed control in corn and soybeans are applied post-emergence, after the crops and weeds are growing. This system is very effective, except when adverse weather conditions prevent timely application of the post-emergence herbicides.

Grain Markets Continue To Be Strong
Cash corn prices at local grain elevators in southern Minnesota have been in the $3.35-3.45/bu. range in the week or so, which is $.20-.30/bu. above the cash corn prices in late April. Current cash corn prices are about a $1.40-1.50/bu. higher than cash corn prices in late May 2006. Similarly, cash soybean prices at local grain elevators have been strong in recent weeks, ranging in the $7.25-7.40/bu. range, which is up from the cash soybean prices of $6.65-6.75/bu. in late April, and are among the highest cash soybean prices that have been available to this point for soybeans produced in 2006. Current cash soybean prices are close to $2/bu. higher than cash soybean prices in late May 2006.

For farm operators that still have a considerable amount of 2006 corn and soybeans stored on the farm waiting to be sold, it would probably be a good farm management decision to take advantage of favorable marketing opportunities to liquidate some of the 2006 grain inventory. Typically, cash prices for old-crop corn and soybeans tend to decline after late June in most years, unless there is major crop production challenge looming, such as a drought. There also may be some opportunities in the next few weeks to forward-price some of the 2007 corn and soybean crop, as new-crop prices for 2007 grain have also improved considerably in recent weeks.


Editor’s note: Kent Thiesse is a former University of Minnesota Extension educator and now is Vice President of MinnStar Bank, Lake Crystal, MN. You can contact him at 507-726-2137 or via e-mail at kent.thiesse@minnstarbank.com.