Minnesota crops continue to lag well behind average, increasing the risk of damage if the region sees an early frost in September.
The latest crop report shows that Minnesota corn fields made good progress last week, but growth is still more than a week behind schedule. As of Sunday, the state's corn averaged 17-inches-tall. The five year average is 32 inches for this time of year. Soybeans are also behind, at about half their normal height.
The state's crops have been slowed by too much rain and not enough sunshine. Some fields are still too muddy and won't be planted at all this year. Crop consultant Pete Kramer says most of the corn fields he's seen in central Minnesota are growing at a much slower rate than normal.
"We're at least a week behind in a lot of areas," said Kramer. "And maybe even up to 10-14 days in other areas, depending on when the crop was planted and how much rain has fallen to hold the crop back."
About 58 percent of the Minnesota corn crop was rated in good to excellent condition, compared to 82 percent a year ago.
Kramer said the improved weather will help fields catch up. But he's worried there might not be enough warm spells through the rest of the summer to speed crop development. He's especially concerned that an early frost could damage still maturing fields.
"Last I checked, we're going to be looking at an average, or slightly cooler than average upcoming couple of months," said Kramer. "That danger of frost this fall could be a real issue."
There has been a upside to the weather. The heavy rains have restocked soil moisture reserves, and ended the drought across most of Minnesota. The extra water in the ground will help supply state crops with adequate moisture if the weather turns dry.
But the above normal precipitation has already taken a toll. The U.S. Agriculture Department is estimating 8.7 million acres of corn are planted in the state. That's down from 9 million acres estimated in March. One reason for the reduction is because some fields were too muddy to plant.
Click on the audio link above to hear MPR's Cathy Wurzer and reporter Mark Steil talk about the report.