If you ask someone, “How much corn is planted and how much spring fieldwork has occurred in your area?” the response is likely to be quite different, depending on where the person resides. There are areas where a considerable amount of tillage has occurred and a significant amount of corn has been planted, while in other areas field conditions have been too wet to do any spring fieldwork. Some locations in southern Minnesota have received several inches of rainfall in April, so soils are totally saturated and standing water exists in some fields.
As of April 20, very little fieldwork has occurred in these portions of south central and southwest Minnesota, and the adjacent areas of northern Iowa. However, as you move north from that area, field conditions have been more favorable, allowing most of the small grain and alfalfa to be planted, as well as early plantings of peas and sugar beets. There has also been spring tillage and fertilizer applications and a considerable amount of corn planted in many areas.
Most research over the past several years has shown that April 20 to the first few days of May is the ideal time to plant corn in southern Minnesota in order to achieve optimum yields. As field conditions become fit, most farmers will be planting corn at a rapid pace in the next 10 days. After some very warm temperatures last week, soil temperatures have warmed up nicely by week’s end. Following some very warm weather just prior to Easter, the 24-hour average soil temperature at the University of Minnesota Research and Outreach Center at Waseca, MN, on Friday April 20, was 55 degrees F at the 2-in. depth and 52 degrees F at 4 in. In 2006 on April 20, the 24-hour average soil temperature was 55 degrees F at the 2 in. level and 53 degrees F at 4 in. However, those soil temperatures likely rose even more over the weekend with some warmer temperatures. Most researchers feel that after mid-April, it is best to plant corn anytime field conditions are fit, regardless of the soil temperature.
Custom Rate Explanation
My April 9 Column on “Farm Custom Rates For 2007” has stirred a lot of discussion in some areas. That’s primarily from providers of custom farm work, who have indicated that the average rates are too low to cover current costs of farm machinery operation, especially with the recent rapid rise in fuel costs. There is certainly some validity to these concerns.
The average custom rates listed in the article were based on the annual “Iowa Farm Custom Rate Survey” that is coordinated and analyzed by Iowa State University. The survey sampled 165 custom operators, farm managers, and ag lenders late in 2006 on what they expected custom farm rates to be for various farm operations in 2006. Certainly fuel prices have changed somewhat in the past 4-5 months, which means that average custom rates would likely be higher if the survey were taken today. Also, the Custom Rate Survey is meant to be a “GUIDE,” and not the final word on actual custom rates that are charged. There are a lot of variables involved in operation of farm machinery and considerable variation due to demand and equipment availability in various locations. The “Iowa Farm Custom Rate Survey” also lists a range of custom rates that were reported, as well as the averages. This survey is available at the following Web site:: http://www.extension.iastate.edu The University of Minnesota has a publication titled “Farm Machinery Economic Cost Estimates” that was last updated in late in 2005. This publication gives a good estimate of the ownership and operational costs of various farm machinery, and provides an estimate of fuel usage for various farming operations.. This publication is available at the following Web site : http://www.extension.umn.edu 
Editor’s note: Kent Thiesse is a former University of Minnesota Extension educator and now is Vice President of MinnStar Bank, Lake Crystal, MN. You can contact him at 507-726-2137 or via e-mail at [email protected] .