CHARLIE WARNER/NEWS LEADER
A few pieces of farm machinery were seen in area fields Monday, as Fillmore County enjoyed two straight days of sunny, dry weather. A crew from Soil and Crop Services of Burr Oak, worked to fill up a sprayer, while applying chemicals to a Fillmore County field.
CHARLIE WARNER/NEWS LEADER A few pieces of farm machinery were seen in area fields Monday, as Fillmore County enjoyed two straight days of sunny, dry weather. A crew from Soil and Crop Services of Burr Oak, worked to fill up a sprayer, while applying chemicals to a Fillmore County field.
The old saying “April showers bring May flowers,” might be something flower gardening enthusiasts enjoy. But the wet, cold, cloudy weather the area has been enduring here in southeast Minnesota and northeast Iowa for the past month has area farmers itching to get out into the fields.

While much of Minnesota has been basking in sunny, warm weather, the southeastern corner of the state has pretty much been “stuck in the muck.”

One recent day it was 38 degrees and raining in Fillmore County and 63 degrees and sunny in International Falls, 450 miles north of here. Farmers in most of Minnesota have been out applying fertilizers and conducting preliminary fieldwork, while local farmers have patiently been waiting for things to dry out.

According to Fillmore-Houston County Extension educator Michael Cruse, it is still early, but if area farmers don’t start getting some sunny, dry weather soon, the later start could put a crimp on the spring planting season.

“We have had our share of rainy, cold weather, but we’re not to a point yet where it will impact the spring planting season,” Cruse said last week. “Some of the early field work, like applying anhydrous, has been delayed. And the lack of sun has decreased the heat units a little. But I’m certainly not concerned…yet.”

Cruse did agree that farmers in much of Minnesota have been able to get out into the fields. Much of the state did not receive the heavy snows southeastern Minnesota got in February and March. That, coupled with many more days of sunny, dry weather, provided farmers in much of the state with an early start to the season.

“They might be farther ahead right now, but it’s way too early for them to start planting corn,” Cruse said. “They’ll just have to wait because their crop insurance won’t cover any losses if they plant too early.

“It’s always tough to go by our memories, when looking back at past springs,” Cruse continued. “We’ve had some very early springs recently. But that’s not the norm. It really is still pretty early. I don’t think we’re going to have another growing season like last year.”

Cruse was referring to last year’s record-breaking growing season. In 2016, the area went 219 days between the last frost in the spring and the first frost in the fall, which is considered the growing season. That broke the old record, set in 1900, by nearly a month, and eclipsed the norm by nearly eight weeks.

The record-breaking warm February of 2017 triggered some plants to begin a premature growing process. Cruse noted that some alfalfa plants, especially on high ground, may have been impacted by this. The plants emerged from their dormant state and then were damaged by the sub freezing weather the area received in March.

“Farmers won’t be able to detect any damage to their alfalfa now,” Cruse said. “But in a few weeks, they may see some brown or wilted leaves. Most times, this won’t hurt. But it may delay the maturing process by a week or so. If there is considerable damage, farmers will have to decide if it is financially feasible to replant their alfalfa or not.”

One positive to the copious amounts of moisture this area has received over the past six months is that both the sub soil and topsoil moisture contents are very good. Other areas of the state, where folks experience an open winter and dry spring, are coming into the spring planting season in need of rain. In fact, some areas are nearing a drought situation.

“We are sitting very good when it comes to sub soil and top soil moisture,” Cruse reported. “We do need some sunny, warm days to get things going.”

A string of sunny, warm days would probably be welcomed by just about everyone living in this corner of the state.