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Waiting to get into the fields: Snow storms push planting season back to late April

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Waiting to get into the fields: Snow storms push planting season back to late April
Dickinson North Dakota 1815 1st Street West 58602

While everyone waits for spring, farmers wait for another season: planting.

Two spring storms that dropped at least a foot of snow across the state will keep tractors out of the fields until late April, CHS Inc. agronomist Chris Binstock said Thursday.

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“The reason I would have to say that it is going to have the biggest impact is because of we were really wet last fall,” Binstock said. “You are going to see a lot of runoff in the fields. You are going to see a lot of places fill up with water.”

A weekend blizzard dropped anywhere from a trace amount to 13 inches of snow in North Dakota, according to the National Weather Service in Bismarck. Dickinson saw 12.5 inches, meteorologist Nathan Heinert said. Approximately 2 MORE inches fell in western North Dakota on Wednesday, but it carried more moisture, he added.

“It was a really wet snow,” Heinert said. “There was no wind so it stuck to the road.”

Producers like Jon Stang of Regent try to get into the field the first week of April, but he said there is no chance of that happening after this week’s snowfall.

“If I had to guess, unless the weather changes drastically, I would say it is going to be after Easter, and that’s being pretty optimistic,” he said.

Stang said he was worried about the upcoming planting season. A wet fall and snow from the winter has saturated the ground, and the additional moisture could cause runoff or stay standing in fields.

“I was a little concerned, before the snow hit. The sloughs and the ponds are all full,” Stang said. “Now, if we get a fast snow we are really going to have water standing. It could be a preventative plant issue.”

Producers across the state intend to plant a total of 5.9 million acres of spring wheat, up 16 percent from last year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Farmers are also expected to sow 5.65 million acres of soybeans, 2.95 million acres of corn, 1.27 million acres of canola, 670,000 acres of sunflowers and 620,000 acres of dry edible beans.

There is good news from so much precipitation, Binstock and Stang said. Alfalfa hay and range land should prosper from the extra snow. The USDA expects farmers to harvest 2.6 million acres of hay, which is down slightly from last year.

“The ranchers will have a good year. They need one,” Stang said. “It was really dry last spring. This year they should be in good shape.”

The pushback could have a domino effect. Spring wheat planting will be delayed, which could keep producers from getting into the fields to plant later crops like corn, Binstock said. Sunflowers don’t go into the ground until around May 1, so they should be fine, he added.

“I hope we get going soon, for our sake,” Binstock said. “It’s always nice for us to get going as soon as possible, because when we don’t we get pushed on. The season just gets dragged out way, way longer than any of us want it to.

“We all want it to happen as soon as possible. We would like to have a little bit of a summer.”

This storm shouldn’t affect commodity prices, Stang said. As long as producers can get in the field, they should be fine.

“Hopefully the heat in July doesn’t affect our yields,” Stang said.

The National Weather Service is forecasting below-normal temperatures through June. There is an equal chance for below and above-average precipitation.

“We have some weak systems coming in Friday through early next week, but nothing really major as far as moisture is involved,” Heinert said, adding temperatures should be seasonal in the short-term forecast.

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April Baumgarten
April Baumgarten joined the Grand Forks Herald May 19, 2015, as the news editor. She works with a team of talented journalists and editors, who strive to give the Grand Forks area the quality news readers deserve to know. Baumgarten grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, where her family continues to raise registered Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at Jamestown (N.D.) College, now known as University of Jamestown. During her time at the college,  she worked as a reporter and editor-in-chief for the university's newspaper, The Collegian. Baumgarten previously worked for The Dickinson Press as the Dickinson city government and energy reporter in 2011 before becoming the editor of the Hazen Star and Center Republican. She then returned to The Press as a news editor, where she helped lead an award-winning newsroom in recording the historical oil boom.   
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