Cool Weather
The extremely cool weather that has existed through most of June has really slowed crop development across the Upper Midwest. On several days in June the average high and low temperatures have been 10-15° below normal. There were even frost warnings in the northern half of Minnesota on June 24, with some parts of Northeast Minnesota actually dropping below 32°.

The total accumulated growing degree units (GDU’s) in June at the University of Minnesota Southern Research and Outreach Center at Waseca through June 28 was 419 GDU’s, which is well below the long-term average of 532 GDU’s in the month of June. Fortunately, temperatures are expected to improve as we head into the Fourth of July weekend. July and August are the months that normally have the highest accumulation of GDU’s for crop development.

Knee-High by July 4th
For generations, the standard measure for corn growth was “knee-high by July 4,” which meant that the corn plant should be able to produce a crop for that year. Of course, most farmers a generation or two ago had much lower yield goals for their corn than farmers of today. In recent years, “waist-high” or higher corn by July 4 has been more typical, and has resulted in some good corn yields in most areas in 2002 and 2003.

It would be difficult to get exceptional corn yields in Minnesota if corn is only “knee-high” or smaller on July 4. While a majority of corn in Southern Minnesota will exceed “knee-high” by July 4, the 2004 corn crop is well behind the corn development in early July of 2002 and 2004. There are some areas of Central and Northern Minnesota where corn will likely not be “knee-high” by July 4 this year. In addition to the cool weather pattern that has existed in June, many areas were also impacted by excess rainfall during the first three weeks of June. This has led to yellowing corn and nitrogen deficiency in parts of fields in many parts of Minnesota.

One advantage of the cool weather pattern that followed the heavy rains in mid-June is that it has also slowed weed growth in fields. This allowed growers time to make timely applications of post-emergence herbicides and to cultivate row crops. The drier weather pattern in late June has also been good for harvest of the first cutting of alfalfa. Harvest has begun for canning peas in Southern Minnesota, with early yields being reported as below average.

Crop Prices Continue Strong
Market prices for corn and soybeans have continued to be quite strong in recent weeks. This has been due to tight grain supplies, good demand and slow crop development in parts of the U.S. The cash soybean price at Lake Crystal, MN, opened at $9.59/bu. on June 28, which compared to a cash price of $8.40 on June 1. The “new crop” or November bid for soybeans opened at $6.72/bu. on June 28, which was up from $6.47/bu. on June 1. The cash price for corn at Lake Crystal opened at $2.53/bu. on June 28, which was 27¢ lower than the $2.80/bu. price on June 1. The December corn bid on June 28 opened at $2.47/bu., compared to $2.59/bu. on June 1. It is probably a good time for producers to consider selling any 2003 corn and soybeans that are in storage, and to look at “locking-in” a market price on some of their 2004 crop. Market prices for corn and soybeans have dropped from July to harvest in about 75-80% of the years. What will happen in 2004?

A Bit of Nostalgia
Town celebrations across the Midwest are always a good time to reflect on our heritage and why a community is important to us. In many rural communities it is also a time when we reflect on the importance of agriculture and how it has changed over the years. This past Sunday, on June 27, was the annual “Duck Days” Parade at Lake Crystal, MN. This year’s Parade Grand Marshals were two life-long residents of the area and retired farmers, Paul Peterson, who is 100 years old, and Willard Davis, who is 98 years old. Imagine the history of agriculture and the community that these gentlemen have accumulated over the years.

A highlight of the Parade was when Paul Peterson drove a beautiful team of horses owned by Roger Jones. Paul had a smile on his face and drove that team with the same enthusiasm that he would have 75 or 80 years ago! Let’s never forget our roots and the people that have helped pave the path for the good life that we have today.

Editors 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.