Like the start of a big race, or the beginning of a championship game, farmers in Minnesota and Iowa have begun the initiation of full-scale fieldwork. The occurrence of very warm temperatures during the first half of April has resulted in soil temperatures that are very conducive to corn planting in most areas. Corn planting has begun on a full-scale basis in most parts of southern and western Minnesota, as well as across Iowa. The amount of corn planted across the region varies from location to location, depending on the amount of rainfall received from April 12-15. Areas that received more rainfall have just begun corn planting in the past few days, while other areas have 25-50% of the corn planted as of April 19. Farm operators have also planted most of the early peas and small-grain crops across the region, and a nearly all spring fertilizer and manure applications are completed.

Soil conditions for corn planting have been described as “almost ideal” by farm operators and agronomists across southern Minnesota this spring. At the U of M Southern Research and Outreach Center at Waseca, MN, the average soil temperature at the 4-in. level on April 16 was 54° F, and 57.5° F at the 2-in. level, which are well within the ideal temperature window for corn planting. The long-term average soil temperatures on April 17 at Waseca are 44.5° F at the 4-in. level and 44.7° F at the 2-in. level. The recent rainfall in many areas has thoroughly moistened the topsoil to provide adequate moisture for seed germination. There appears to be no reason to delay corn planting in 2010 due to soil temperatures, once the field conditions are fit for planting. The stored soil moisture in the top 5 ft. of the soil profile is normal to slightly above in most areas of southern Minnesota, as we head into the 2010 growing season.

According to University of Minnesota and private seed company research, the ideal time window to plant corn in southern Minnesota in order to achieve optimum yields is April 20 to May 5; however, most producers strive to plant a majority of their corn in April. The good news is that we are just at the beginning of this ideal time window for corn planting, and many producers already have a significant amount of corn planted. Unless conditions turn very wet in the next couple of weeks, most corn in southern Minnesota should be planted by the end of April in 2010.

Earth Day 2010

For the past four decades, an annual event called Earth Day has been held in late April across the U.S., which has been a time for all U.S. citizens to reflect on our country’s environmental resources, and what we can do individually and as communities to help enhance our environment for the next generation. In recent years, it has become fashionable to point the finger of blame at agriculture and farmers for many environmental issues. However, in reality farmers have been some of the best environmental stewards in the U.S. in the past couple of decades. This has been accomplished with a relatively small investment of federal tax dollars.
Consider the following environmental facts about U.S. agriculture:

  • Since 1982, the soil erosion rate on U.S. cropland has been reduced by over 40%.
  • Conservation tillage is now used on approximately 72 million acres of cropland in the U.S.
  • Contour farming practices are used on 26 million acres of cropland in the U.S.
  • U.S. farmers maintain over 1.3 million acres of grass waterways.
  • Farm owners currently have over 31 million acres enrolled in CRP.
  • From 1997 to 2009, U.S. farmers and ranchers added 131,400 acres of new wetlands.
  • U.S. agricultural producers provide for approximately 75% of the nation’s wildlife habitat.
  • Each year farmers plant hundreds of thousands of trees through SWCD tree planting programs.

Following is some recently released data from the National Corn Growers Association:

  • Due to enhanced genetics in corn hybrids to control insects and manage weeds, U.S. corn producers use 70% less insecticide and about 30% less herbicide per acre today than they did two decades ago.
  • Corn producers use 10% less fertilizer per bushel produced today than they did in 1995; while corn yields have increased by nearly 30% over that same period, due to advanced genetics.
  • In 2007, it required 37% less land, 27% less irrigation water and 37% less energy to produce a bushel of corn than it did in 1987.
  • A bushel of corn in 2007 was produced with a 69% reduction in soil loss, and 30% lower emissions of greenhouse gases, than in 1987.

There is still a lot to be accomplished to manage potential global warming and other environmental issues; however, we can rest assured that the agriculture industry will do their part to find solutions.