Feeling ‘lucky’: MN soybean farmers pick up planting pace

The sun is shining on Minnesota soybean farmers as the 2023 planting season kicks into high gear.

After parts of the state received rainfall that halted planting progress, Minnesota soybean farmers took advantage of mild temps and dry conditions in the days leading up to Memorial Day. USDA has reported that Minnesota’s soybean crop is 53% planted as of May 21. Compared to last year, farmers are way ahead of the mark; only 29% of the 2022 crop was planted at this same point. Statewide, about 19% of Minnesota’s soybean crop has seen emergence.

McLeod County farmer Ryan Mackenthun is nearly finished planting, despite the heavy rainfall that southern Minnesota received earlier in May. Mackenthun, who serves as treasurer of the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association, reports that this year’s weather patterns are comparable to last year, which means that his operation is behind the mark for what he considers a relatively optimal start.

MSGA Treasurer Ryan Mackenthun is
MSGA Director Ryan Mackenthun is feeling fortunate this spring. Favorable weather conditions have helped the Brownton farmer nearly finish planting his 2023 crop.

“In an ideal year, we’d like to be done with corn by the 23rd of April, have a couple days off and then start the beans right away. That didn’t happen this year,” said Mackenthun, who finished planting corn on May 23. “Beans will probably be done by May 25.”

Fortunately, the rainfall didn’t hit Mackenthun quite as hard as the rest of southern Minnesota; some areas received over five inches of rain in a matter of days.  

“Planting is going really well now that the sun is shining,” he said. “I got lucky in that rainfall event. I only got about an inch and a half.”

In Traverse County, Tom Frisch reported that he started planting on May 5 and wrapped up the planting season on May 20, putting his farm ahead of both last year’s timeline and their average year.

“We didn’t start last year until May 19, so we’re way ahead,” said Frisch, the vice chair of the Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council. “Last week, we only got three-tenths (of rain) and it shut us down for one day. We were very lucky.”

Frisch completed the pre-emergence spraying on his soybeans and will wait two weeks before starting corn spraying.

“Planting went really well,” he said. “Now we could use a little rain.”

In Kittson County in far northwestern Minnesota, Theresia Gillie also reported that planting has gone quicker than last year. Long days and a two-week push allowed her to complete soybean by May 21 and finish spraying on the 23, despite the April blizzard that hit her area.

“I’m probably a good two weeks ahead,” said Gillie, a past Minnesota Soybean Growers Association president who retired from the board earlier this spring. “I didn’t get done until the end of the first week of June last year.”

Gillie also reported that her region is dry, having missed the rainfall earlier in the planting season. A burn ban is now in effect in her county, and Canadian smoke has drifted over the border, reducing air quality in northern Minnesota.

“The Canadian Rockies area hasn’t had the rain that they need,” she said. “Hopefully they can get some rain and that will come over and we’ll be able to get some of that.”

According to USDA, as of May 21, United States soybean farmers were 66% percent done planting, beating the five-year average.

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