Contact: Bob Boehm, 517-679-5334
LANSING — To no one's surprise, farmers will be planting Michigan's big-acreage row crops a bit later than normal this year. Their rites of spring will have to race through a compressed schedule as soon as conditions allow—meaning as soon as some sun, wind and warmth make the fields firm enough to work up. Below-normal temperatures also have farmers sidelined, but with technology on their side, nobody's yet sounding the alarm.
"Most farmers, especially in Michigan, are equipped to plant their spring crops in about a 10-15 day window," said Bob Boehm, manager of the center for commodity, farm and industry relations at Michigan Farm Bureau (MFB). "The longer this pattern lingers on into April, the more concern will begin to rise."
With a long growing season and the ability to germinate at soil temperatures in the 40s, sugar beets are traditionally the first Michigan row crop to be planted in the spring. Seasonal rains threaten their earliest stages of development, though, and re-planting flooded sugar beet fields is a fairly common practice.
Farm Bureau field staff report "nothing going on" in the rich, but waterlogged, fields of the Thumb and Saginaw Valley, where sugar beet cultivation is centered. Optimistic producers hope to be planting by April 15, but most realists are eyeing the 20th at best.
Corn planting follows next, as soon as soil temperatures reach the 50s. Even with advanced hybrids to maximize maturation speed, corn has a long growing season that barely fits into Michigan's scanty warm-weather window. According to recent figures from the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), Michigan farmers anticipate planting roughly the same amount of corn as they did last year, approximately 2.60 million acres.
Echoing a national trend, Michigan soybean plantings this year are expected to increase to 2.1 million acres from the previous year's 1.9 million. If realized, that would mark the second-largest acreage on record, according to Jay Johnson, director of the NASS Great Lakes Regional Office.
Plantings of dry, edible beans will be up this year as well, from 175,000 acres last year to 185,000 acres. Michigan leads the nation in several varieties of edible beans, including black, cranberry and small red beans. We're second only to North Dakota in navy beans and total dry bean production. Dry beans are the last of the major row crops to be planted, thanks to a relatively short growing season.
NOTE: To track statewide crop progress throughout the year, bookmark the USDA's NASS-Michigan website, where weekly updates are posted starting April 7.