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Farmers race to get crops planted between rain storms

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Minnesota farmers whose fields are dry enough for planting are working overtime to get their crops in the ground. But others are still idled by soggy weather and face the prospect of a smaller harvest unless there's a quick warm-up and dry-out.

The Winona Post visited Duane Wirt of Lewiston, who was finally able to fire up his combine last week. Eager to make up for lost time, Wirt spent all day and much of the night working in the fields. He tells the Post he gets through the long hours "with a little Mountain Dew, a little chocolate, and a good radio station."

A spring that's been colder and wetter than normal has put Minnesota agriculture behind schedule. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says normally by now 62 percent of the state's corn crop is planted. This year half of that, 31 percent, is in the ground. Monday's report from the National Agricultural Statistics Service shows that soybeans, sugar beets, and spring wheat are all less than ten percent planted.

While farmers like Wirt are working into the wee hours, his peers in the northwest may be envious.

AgWeek toured Polk County, an area that's seen a surge of corn planting in recent years. This year will interrupt that trend, the paper says. The grain elevator they visited was desolate at a time of year that's usually busy. The size of the decline in corn acreage will depend on if and when warmer, drier weather arrives.

The Winona Post explains that planting corn later than May 10 usually reduces yields. But not always. Last year, for example, the crop went in late but an unseasonably balmy autumn allowed the corn to flourish.

Up in the northwest, though, some cornfields might be turning into something else. AgWeek says soybeans can be safely planted later in the spring, so some farmers who had intended to plant corn may change their plans.

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