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Corn growing fast, but forage is short

Eric Walker, of Zumbro Falls, cuts ditch grass last week. A shortage of alfalfa has some farmers cutting the ditches to feed their cattle.

Hot, steamy weather inspired robust growth of Minnesota corn and soybeans, although they remain behind schedule because of a late planting season, according to the weekly crop report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued Monday.

The height of the average corn plant grew 14 inches during the week ending Sunday, to 44 inches, the report said. However, that lags behind the five-year average of 58 inches, and last year's 73 inches, for this time of year.

Soybeans, meanwhile, grew 4 inches to an average of 12 inches, although the five-year average for this week is 18 inches.

Minnesota farmers, and particularly those in the southeastern corner of the state, got a late start on planting because of cold, rainy weather deep into spring.

A lot of farmers in this area didn't get their corn planted, and instead are taking insurance money on the land and planting cover crops, said Eric Walker, who farms near Zumbro Falls. "Southeast Minnesota got hit the worst," he said.


Walker was able to get his corn, beans and custom crops planted, but it took long hours. Some nights he'd work until 4:30 a.m., take an hour break and go out again, he said. But now it looks good — "I've got corn up to my chin," Walker said.

Another major problem for many area farmers is that many forage crops died from winterkill, because of the unusual weather this spring.

The condition of alfalfa this week was rated 38 percent fair, poor or very poor, according to the crop report.

"A lot of people had to plow it up and reseed it," Walker said.

After cutting alfalfa, farmers often have to plant a different crop on the land before planting alfalfa again, to revive the soil.

The result is that prices have risen on alfalfa, grass and other forage, Walker said.

"A lot of people are in bad shape," Walker said. "One guy had 450 acres winter-killed that he had to reseed."

Walker mows ditches as well, and some people use that forage crop for hay. "This year it's huge — everyone is mowing ditches and waters. You get hay where you can."


In a report issued on Thursday, the USDA estimated that spring wheat production in Minnesota will be 58.3 million bushels, down 22 percent from last year. Yield is forecast at 53 bushels per acre, down 4 bushels from last year.

Oat production was forecast at 8.37 million barrels, unchanged from 2012. And barley production was forecast at 4.96 million bushels, down 13 percent.

07-08 cut hay ols.jpg
Hay lies recently cut along U.S. 63 just South of Olmsted County 247. Most crops, if planted at all, are far behind schedule due to the very wet spring delaying planting.

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