By Michael Hricik, The Dickinson Press
May 16--Fieldwork has been delayed even further as cool, wet weather has persisted statewide, but farmers are working hard to meet crop planting insurance deadlines.
Producers are taking advantage of every dry day they can get, spending long days in the field this week.
Lucas Hoff of Richardton said he was busy on Thursday finishing planting peas, though the insurance deadline for them has already passed.
"There's a challenge to chase the clock because things have been slow-going," Hoff said.
Only 1.6 days were suitable for fieldwork last week, according to the latest North Dakota crop progress and condition report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Average soil temperatures across the state were generally four to eight degrees below normal.
Thirty-three percent of producers surveyed said they had a surplus of topsoil moisture and 21 percent said they encountered a surplus of subsoil moisture, according to the report.
Bowman County Extension agent Andrea Bowman said that even crops that were planted early haven't been doing much because of cold, frosty soil. Farmers are stressed about insurance deadlines, adding to day-to-day worries, she said.
But Bowman called it the nature of the industry. Compared to last season, when a severe drought crippled planting and rain first came on May 15 to Bowman County, farmers are in slightly better shape, she said.
"Producers were planting in powder (last year)," Bowman said. "This year, they can't even get into the fields because they're wet."
Chris Binstock, an agronomist for CHS Inc., said that many producers have buried equipment in moist soil and are having trouble spreading fertilizer.
Binstock said he finds most of this season's planting trends worrisome, particularly for corn.
Only 3 percent of the projected corn crop has been planted, behind a five-year average of 33 percent, according to the crop report.
Hoff said he is a week behind where he wanted to be in his planting, but will be caught up if work with his livestock goes well this weekend.
Binstock said producers are switching to shorter season hybrid corns in greater numbers and utilizing as many heat units as possible. If another wet summer comes, it would be "big trouble" for corn growers, he said.
Farmers have planted 11 percent of spring wheat, tailing a five-year average of 39 percent, according to the report. Just 2 percent of canola has been planted thus far, well behind the average of 26 percent.
Dry edible peas stood at 6 percent -- besting last year's total at the same time, 0 percent, but not keeping up with the average of 36 percent.
Those who planted crops earlier in the season can suffer the most in soggy, chilly conditions, Binstock said. Some farmers are replanting their spring wheat and canola because of poor results, he said.
Hoff said the disadvantage of wet conditions can be minimized when a farmer knows his field well.
"We know where the mud spots are and where the rough spots are, and we adjust and jump around," he said.