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Crops off to good start

A mild April and early planting season has some predicting record crop yields, but farmers are still looking for cooperation from the weather.

“It’s a heck of a crop coming if mother nature keeps behaving,” said Randy Stephenson, manager of the Dexter Elevator.

Despite a winter with some of the heaviest snow totals in recent years, farmers were still able to have one of the earliest planting seasons on record due to an early spring. The early planting has many calling for record yields, but farmer John Grass noted it’s far too early to be predicting a harvest.

“We don’t know until it’s in the bin,” said Grass, who farms corn, soybeans, alfalfa and also raises cattle.

However, Grass admits the season has been good up until a recent wet spell. “We’ve had excellent conditions,” Grass said.

However, high yields aren’t all good news. Stephenson said the high yield could drive crop prices down, but he noted they’re holding steady right now.

A key time is when the corn starts tasseling, and that won’t happen until late summer or early fall.

Like Grass, Jon Hillier said the key time to watch the crops is still coming.

“The last half of July, early part of august is the most critical time,” said Hillier, sales agronomist Northern Country Co-Op.

That’s the time the corn uses the most water because the ears are forming. Hillier is cautiously optimistic about the growing season so far, and he said the weather will need to cooperate moving forward.

The strong start hasn’t come without its setbacks. While the planting season came about three weeks ahead of schedule, Stephenson said a frost in early May set the crops back about a week to 10 days.

Even with the frost, the crops are still ahead of schedule. In the past, Stephenson said farmers were looking for corn to be knee-by the Fourth of July, but now farmers expect the corn to be nearing shoulder length. Corn is already about knee-high across much of the state.

However, Grass said there have been a few weeks of light rains, and farmers need to get in the fields to spray herbicides to take care of weeds.

Grass also has 250 hay cows. After a strong start to the hay season, growing has slowed due to we conditions. Grass and other farmers are hoping the weather to dry out.

Moving forward, Grass best summarized what all the farmers noted they’re looking for: “We just need timely rains and warm temperatures.”