The warm and wet summer is making things grow. That's good in some cases, and not so good in others. Farmers are happy with their crops but homeowners may have noticed more insects than usual. Here are some questions and answers about bugs, crops and other news from southwestern Minnesota.
What are farmers seeing in their fields?
Lots and lots of green. If you've driven through farm country you'll see that corn fields are some of the richest, deepest green ever. That's a dependable, non-professional type of measurement of the great growing conditions.
The professionals at the U.S. Agriculture Department though give us a little more detail. They say 35 percent of Minnesota's corn crop right now is in excellent condition. That's a pretty good rating for late July.
How does that compare to past crops?
I checked the state's ag statistics back to 1986, and only one year is better. 16 years ago, in 1994. Forty-three percent of the corn was rated excellent.
A little further back, in 1986, the state's corn had the same rating as right now, 35 percent excellent.
Minnesota's soybeans are also looking good, 25 percent in excellent condition. The state's best crop right now though is one we don't hear a lot about: barley. Thirty-six percent of those fields are rated excellent.
Also, barley is one of three crops being harvested right now, though just small amounts so far. The other two are oats and sweet corn, plus the spring wheat harvest is just about ready to get under way.
So with all this good news does that mean farmers are expecting some record harvests this fall?
It's a little early to make that prediction, but they're definitely on track to set some records if the weather cooperates.
Commodity traders like to say 'rain makes grain' and that's basically what's happened this year. Plenty of rain and enough warm temperatures to push the crop along. So that could mean big things this fall.
In fact in 1994, the year with that 43 percent excellent rating, farmers did harvest a record corn crop in the fall.
All that rain and warm weather is good for bugs too, right?
I noticed in the newspapers around the state that there's been several stories about exploding insects populations.
In southern Minnesota the one that's attracted the most attention is a bug named the earwig.
The Worthington Daily Globe headlined their story about the insect 'Wigged Out.' These crawlers are about half an inch long, with distinctive pinchers on the tail.
They like damp, shadowy locations, I found a bunch in my mailbox a couple of weeks ago. Sometimes they get into houses, crawl around on the floor and generally give residents the creeps. But despite a very bad reputation, experts say the bug is harmless.
What's that reputation?
That they like to crawl into a person's ear, that's where the name comes from. But the bug experts say that's just folk lore, it doesn't happen.
Nobles County Attorney Gordon Moore is investigating the allegation that a significant number of felons registered and voted illegally in the 2008 election. What has he found?
A conservative watchdog group called Minnesota Majority came up with the names of about 2,800 felons statewide who they say were ineligible to vote. They also found those same names on state voter rolls.
In Nobles County, officials are checking on 8 felons contained in the Minnesota Majority list. The county attorney says three had their right to vote fully restored and thus were eligible to cast a ballot. Another person had died before the election.
The county attorney is investigating the other four. But their finding clearing half the names right away, is roughly in line with what officials are finding in other parts of the state.