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Farmers face planting delays

GWINNER, N.D. - Roger Bopp and his sons were happy with the spot of rain their farm received Thursday, it was just the thing for their newly planted crops.

Rivers run mild

GWINNER, N.D. - Roger Bopp and his sons were happy with the spot of rain their farm received Thursday, it was just the thing for their newly planted crops.

But the rain didn't stop there and the nearly 6 inches that fell through Saturday night washed the smiles from their faces.

"We lost at least 30 percent of our corn we had planted," Roger Bopp said Monday at his farm near Gwinner, which he works with sons Steve and Scott.

"The optimal is to get everything seeded and get your timely inch rains," Steve Bopp said. "But we don't seem to get those anymore. It's either five inches or nothing."

Now, farmers from southeastern North Dakota to southwestern Minnesota - some of whom received up to 8 inches over the weekend - will need to reseed some of their fields following the weekend rains.

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North Dakota farmers also face delays to an already slow planting pace for corn and soybeans. The later crops are planted, the greater the danger from early frost.

As of Sunday, state farmers planted 38 percent of corn, down from an average of 45 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Three percent of North Dakota soybeans were planted. The average is 9 percent.

Minnesota farmers planted at average rates.

Weekend rains - reports of 4 inches to 5 inches were common - fell on fields already holding good moisture.

"We really weren't looking for more rain," said Dale Siebert, Richland County extension agent in Wahpeton, N.D.

The soil couldn't absorb much new moisture, so weekend rains left big pools in many fields, he said.

Standing water threatens planted crops, said Joel Ransom, North Dakota State University Extension Service agronomist.

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Plants need oxygen, and submerged crops die if they go long without it, he said.

Another danger: Waterlogged seeds can rot before they germinate.

Dennis Feiken, who farms near LaMoure, N.D., said Monday he was already planning to replant some fields.

Farmers in the wettest areas won't be returning to fields until mid-May at the earliest.

Dan Qual, a Lisbon, N.D., farmer who saw 4 inches of rain fall on his land, said he can't resume planting for at least a week.

Rich Hardy, with Gwinner (N.D.) Farmers Elevator, said planting in his area will be shut down for seven to 10 days.

In the meantime, farmers will reconsider their plans.

Area farmers typically plant wheat first, followed by corn and finally soybeans.

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Ideally, corn is planted by May 1. If it's not, farmers often switch to soybeans, Ransom said.

Some corn acres could shift to soybeans, though it's too early to say how many, said Philip Deal, general manager of Wheaton, Minn.-based Wheaton-Dumont Co-op Elevator, which has five locations in southwestern Minnesota and southeastern North Dakota.

Feiken said farmers are accustomed to dealing with too little or too much rain.

"So we'll make the best of it. But we sure could have done without this," he said.

Readers can reach Forum reporters Jonathan Knutson at (701) 241-5530 and Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555

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