Farmers get an early start, but not too earlyby Mark Steil, Minnesota Public Radio
TYLER, Minn. — On Alan Roelofs' farm, spring arrived way ahead of schedule. Leaves are sprouting on trees, birds are singing and the first plants are even up in the garden.
"That little row right there is radishes," Roelofs said.
The seeds for the short row of tiny green shoots were planted in mid-March. That's generally a time when snow still covers this high ground along the Buffalo Ridge in southwestern Minnesota. But this year, all the past rules about spring weather seem to have disappeared.
"I've never seen one quite this dry and nice," Roelofs said.
Nearby, a tractor is being readied to do a little planting. If he gets an electrical problem solved, Roelofs plans to head out later to sow some oats, alfalfa and pasture grass.
Roelofs says he will wait to start on his major crops like corn until sometime in April. That's because even though the weather is nice now, things can change quickly. An April cold snap could kill the young plants if he seeds them in March. And that would be a big financial loss, since his crop insurance would not cover the damage. Roelofs' policy says the earliest he can plant corn is April 11.
"Absolutely, wait for the crop insurance date," Roelofs said. "If you look at the price of seed now, you really can't afford not to."
His seed cost is over $100 per acre. If he plants early, and a freeze kills the crop, insurance won't pay for new seed to replant the land.
Even without corn planting, he still has a lot to do. His Black Angus cattle will be giving birth any day now. Roelofs has to watch that process closely, and help any new mother experiencing difficulties.
- Morning Edition, 03/30/2012, 5:35 a.m.