Market Matters Blog

2024 Planting Season Got Off to a Good Start in the Midwest

Mary Kennedy
By  Mary Kennedy , DTN Basis Analyst
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The April full moon lit the way to prepare for the start of spring wheat planting in Crookston, Minnesota. (Photo by Tim Dufault)

I spoke to farmers and elevator managers in the Midwest during the week of April 22 and April 26, asking them how things were going in their area as far as planting progress and conditions. This is part 1 of a two-story special package: This one has their comments covering the Upper Midwest states of North and South Dakota and Minnesota. Part 2 will cover the Midwest states of Nebraska, Michigan, Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio.

Farmers have been busy planting spring wheat in North and South Dakota and northwest Minnesota for the past month with better weather allowing them to get going early. Corn and even some soybean acres are also going in where the weather permits.


"Spring planting in the northern Red River Valley started about the 10th of April in just a few spots on drier ground, sandy soils or last year's beet ground," said Tim Dufault, of Crookston, Minnesota. "Planting kicked into high gear the week of April 22, after a week of cool temperatures and some rain showers. With an earlier start to planting than the last few years, I have heard of a little more spring wheat being planted than originally intended. Corn acres will be cut back due to low prices."

"Things are going well here. Seedbed conditions are as good as they have ever been in a few years, with ample moisture to get started," said Vance Johnson, of Breckenridge, Minnesota. "Spring wheat and sugar beets were put in very timely in the immediate area. Corn is starting to go in, but at a very relaxed manner as soil temps are cooler than optional. That said, around here if the soil conditions are fit, corn goes in regardless of soil temps. I don't see a lot of variances from this winter crop rotation plans due to spring conditions here."

In East Grand Forks, Minnesota, Matthew Krueger said, "We have over 70% of our spring wheat in the ground and are just waiting on two last fields to get into shape and don't feel the need to rush them any -- it's still April," he said.

"Conditions have been really nice, we're even getting some small rains which cause us to be down in the morning, but by the afternoon we are back up and rolling. We have not gone on corn or soybeans yet, looking at the forecast and only supposed to get 30-40 GDUs (growing degree units), I'm just not excited about it. I'd like to get our wheat along with oats that we are trying this year in the ground, and then we can put our full resources into corn/beans after that," Krueger said.

"We are also patiently waiting for our planter to arrive, and while we have our old one on standby, I would like to just start one planter versus two. As far as spring wheat acres, I think it will be the same simply for rotation purposes. No one is excited about planting a crop that costs $8 to $9 per bushel to grow in a market that is around $6.50 to $7," Krueger noted.

Austen Citrowske, of Canby, Minnesota, said it was busy in his neighborhood this week for corn and soybean planting. "Soils are still a bit cool, but with the planting conditions being nicer than the forecast, most farmers in this area were running full throttle this week. I'd say the immediate area, including our farm, is around 3/4 planted on corn acres.

"Also, a lot of soybeans have been planted in the last week, an earlier trend compared to normal. I would estimate soybeans at 1/3 to 1/2 complete, as a lot of farms are running a second planter dedicated to soybeans. Soil moisture is in good shape, and we are getting rain now. If we can get some heat coming soon the crop should be off to a good start," said Citrowske.


"Spring wheat seeding should be over 50% completed by the weekend," said Keith Brandt, general manager of Plains Grain and Agronomy LLC in Enderlin, North Dakota. "Our acres are going to be similar to last year. The calendar and the cold soils kept the corn planters out of the field. There is some corn getting planted along with some canola and even some soybeans. Trying to go slow until next week, but how do you slow down a 60-foot planter? Topsoil and subsoil moistures are good. Farmers are getting into the ground that hasn't been planted this early for quite some time."

Peter Bakkum, of Mayville, North Dakota, said he finished his spring wheat by the end of the week of April 22. "There was enough moisture in the seedbeds and some of the earliest fields from a couple weeks ago are just starting to pop up. This rain will be very nice for what was seeded. There seems to be a lot less wheat in our area compared to the last couple of years."

"Seeding is definitely happening earlier than average in our area this year due to dry conditions," said Josh Backstrom, of Maddock, North Dakota. "We had minimal snowfall in the winter, not much of any accumulation for very long, due to some warmer days in February. That, added with the lack of moisture in the second half of last year's growing season, we are still in a deficit. We received about a half inch of rain from the two systems that came through in the last two weeks so that helped with seeding, but with some windy warm days it's getting dry again," Backstrom said.

"Having said that, we have so far seeded through every single slough and every tillable acre on our wheat ground. We finished seeding wheat around midnight April 22 to try to beat some moisture the next day and this weekend. There is lots of dust and dry dirt on top in the fields and we haven't touched them with tillage and are directly no-tilling right in," Backstrom continued. "There's been a few spots (15-20 acres) where we had to use Salford tillage tool to dry out, but those were just spots where the frost was still coming out of the ground. We had most of our NH3 on last fall for the wheat ground so we're just seeding right into that."

Backstrom added, "Now our attention is getting equipment ready for corn planting, and with strip tilling being done in the fall, we will be directly planting into that when the soil temperatures warm."

From eastern North Dakota, Darrin Schmidt said, "It's been all wheat seeded so far as it's been too cold for corn, but we expect to start planting corn the beginning of May. It's gone really well, but you really see the effects of spotty rain showers last year.

"Our southern ground is dry, we are planting through sloughs, and our north ground is wetter, and some areas aren't drying as fast. As we are waiting for a few fields of wheat to dry out, we figured we could do fertilizer on our corn fields that are ready. Probably sitting at 60% seeded on wheat waiting for the remainder to dry out, zero percent corn, but 65% of it fertilized. We will wait till after this shot of rain to finish wheat and start corn. It's only April so we have time," Schmidt said.

Spring wheat planting, as of April 25, is about 75% finished, said Cory Tryan, grain manager of Alton Grain Terminal, LLC in Hillsboro, North Dakota. "Our area has a nice start to wheat planting and corn planting will be underway soon and our ground is mellow and near perfect for planting. We've had a couple nice 1-inch soakers the past 10 days which has slowed things down. Seems like more spring wheat seed is going out the door, but some of this is due to farmers having to leave one or two years of malt barley on the farm," Tryan said.

"Also, small grains are needed for beet rotations in this area. With the lack of subsoil moisture, we need to continue to see a few nice timely rains going forward. The forecast looks promising for another inch passing through the weekend," Tryan noted.

Riley Schriefer, of western North Dakota, normally plants 1,000 acres of spring wheat. "Soil is dry on top with sufficient subsoil it seems," he said. "The wind has been relentless. We finished oats last night, and starting spring wheat today, April 23. Acres for wheat are about average for us, but a lot of guys not planting as much wheat though. The giant wheat farmers moved in and seeded everything already. I'd say they left 20-25% of their acres for beans by the sounds and looks of it."

"We just got rolling April 22 with durum. No barley going in this year because there are no malt contracts available. Field conditions are about perfect other than ground temps being a little cool," said Kim Saueressig, of McCluskey, North Dakota. "Got about an inch of rain last week which slowed us up a little bit, but to start in April this year compared to the last two years, we'll take it.

"As far as acreage, I don't think there will be a whole lot of changes and maybe a little less spring wheat, and canola just because of prices. It sounds like durum acres will be up, but how much is to be determined," said Saueressig. "Probably will start soybeans early next week and go on those for a few days before switching to corn. Then back to soybeans again. We will keep the wheels turning all week, as it looks like another shot of rain coming through later this week into the weekend. Even if it's a delay, we'll never pass up the moisture!"

Jason Hanson, owner of Rock and Roll Agronomy LLC, of Webster, North Dakota, said the first barley went in around April 10 before the frost was out. "The earliest wheat I had got seeded was April 13, but I don't have any wheat or barley emerged yet. Open winter made for frost needing to get out and we've had two decent rains to remove frost. Most barley is the variety Synergy. (There are) a lot less contracts this year and farmers are not too happy about that. Barley works well for our type of soils," Hanson said.

"Wheat got seeded at a pretty decent pace here April 20-25. Valda has been pretty popular -- mainly because it has handled the dry conditions we have had the last two years," Hanson explained. "If you look at the drought monitor for North Dakota, that northeast corner needs all we can get. We have had two beautiful rains this spring, slow and steady, and soils have taken it all. Soil profile was about perfect down 2 feet last Thanksgiving and I thought if we put a foot of snow on top of it, we would be perfect for spring. Didn't get the snow and it hasn't really warmed up this April, considering there is no snow," Hanson said.

He continued, "Farmers are in a good mood because it's early and they don't feel the pressure of being behind and fields are fit to go, with no snowbanks or wet areas. The forecast looks damp and cool. So, I think if we get delayed here, some farmers will feel like that early advantage could be slipping away."

Quentin Sears, of Minnewaukan, North Dakota, said conditions are very variable. "We're still dealing with frost in spots. Along Highway 2, it is very dry, as we missed the fall rain up there and had 3 inches total last year. But, as soon as you go south and along the west side of 281, moisture is very good and field conditions are good to too wet. A lot of it isn't fit for planting yet, but that's OK as we still have six days of April!"

"I would say wheat acreage will be average to slightly above in our area. Small grains started going in around April 9 here on and off; personally, we started on Monday the 22nd as soil temps and conditions were much more favorable," Sears continued. "I'm hearing of some corn going in the ground today in our area, some peas and beans have started going in. Overall, we're off to a great, early start. Myself, the "20k acre corn farmer", am looking at possibly starting corn around May 2-3 as these soil temps are still too cold for my liking. We saw 22 degrees just six days ago!" Sears said.

Peter Ness, of Sharon, North Dakota, said on April 23 that they were just wrapping up spring wheat seeding. "There is about the average amount of spring wheat acres going in and no corn in around here yet. I'll wait till April 29 to start that and am hoping the weekend brings some rain as it is pretty dry in my immediate area."


In central South Dakota, Colin Nachtigal said, "We are in the funny little area where it is common to grow spring wheat and winter wheat. The winter wheat could not look any better. We had adequate fall moisture, so we planted all our wheat acres to winter wheat. Producers who are planting spring wheat will wrap up this week. More corn and beans, less sunflowers and a little less wheat in the area. Just a few guys starting on corn and beans ahead of the rain."

"We finished up spring wheat seeding last night, April 25, before the rain. Last year we didn't get any spring wheat in the ground until mid-May so it's nice to get it done in April for once," said Ryan Wagner, of Roslyn, South Dakota. "Soil conditions were pretty much perfect and with this nice gentle rain on top of it, I expect it to get off to a great start. There are just a few spring wheat regulars in our area, and they are sticking with their normal acreage, and I haven't heard of any of the traditional corn/soybean guys dabbling in any small grains."

Nathan Vander Schaaf, of Okaton, South Dakota, said, "We have been planting oats. We dormant-seeded our spring wheat last fall, and it is looking very respectable, and it has worked well in the past. It's probably better than spring planted 65% of the time. We have excellent soil conditions, and the fields are very clean, but could use a little heat."

"In the Onida area, planting conditions are the best they have been for years. Overall, our winter was on the mild side," said Tim Luken, General Manager at Oahe Grain Corporation, in Onida, South Dakota. "Granted, we didn't receive a lot of snow over the winter, but did have a few wet spring snowstorms and a couple rain events that help our topsoil and subsoil profile. We had a few guys start spring wheat planting back in the middle of March. The guys that got in early farm a lot of acres and this helped them get a jump start on planting," Luken said.

"The main start of spring wheat planting started last week and have had a great go at it so far. I have heard of guys being done and I would think most guys would finish up next week, weather permitting," Luken said.

"This weekend we do have a rain event with possibly over an inch of precipitation. Winter wheat in our area looks great, no issues there."

Luken continued, "I do believe our spring wheat acres will be down from other years due to lower prices. Talking with producers, I am hearing of a lot more row crops of corn, bean and milo, while sunflower acres will be cut way back due to red seed weevils. Time will tell at the end what shakes out."

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