Late snow brings needed moisture to farmers

6:03 AM, Apr 23, 2013   |    comments
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STEWART, Minn. - If spring planting was a sprint, Curt Burns' tractors would already be poised in a three-point stance.

"They're fueled up, the windows are washed, everything is ready to rock and roll," says Burns.

In truth his cultivator and planter has been hooked up and ready for three weeks.

"We were planting corn as we speak last year," Burns says.

As a crop consultant and with more than 1,100 acres of his own to plant, Burns could be getting anxious. But after last year's drought, he'll gladly trade early planting for the wet snow that's preventing it.

"I know we don't all like this snow right now," he says, "But it is precipitation, which is what we need."

Burns digs down about a foot into one of his fields. The soil is moist, but despite the recent rain and snow, it is not muddy. That tells him the soil should be ready to till with a few days of warm, dry weather. It also indicates how dry the soil was last fall after a summer-long drought."

Usually this time of year, you can get a lot of mud that sticks to the shovel," Burns says.

Burns experience is shared by farmers across the state. In its weekly crop weather report released Monday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said 59 percent of Minnesota farmers rated their soil moisture as adequate and 24 percent surplus. But 56 percent of the state's farmers said subsoil moisture is short or very short.

Burns says farmers still have plenty of time to put in their crop, provided warmer, drier weather arrives within the next couple of weeks.

In Glencoe, farmer Tom Longhenry also appreciates the moisture, but has unrelated reasons to hope for a change in the weather. Two of his barns are filled with 130 boats and campers that should have already been removed by the owners who rent space from him.

"This should be completely empty right now and it's still full," says the owner of Glencoe Storage.

It hasn't been for lack of trying. Twice this month Longhenry has scheduled pickup days, only to have them snowed out. He's scheduled another for this weekend.

"I think everybody has had enough," he says. "They're ready for spring now."

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