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Published April 09, 2012, 10:06 AM

East to west

Spring planting was progressing slowly in the Red River Valley and picking up speed into western North Dakota last week.

By: Mikkel Pates, Agweek

Spring planting was progressing slowly in the Red River Valley and picking up speed into western North Dakota last week.

It was warm by the trees along the river, south of Moorhead, Minn., and Kevin London of Hitterdahl, Minn., was planting corn on April 3, for a farmer he has worked for the past three seasons.

“Just started: pretty early yet,” London says.

The ground was working up pretty good. The farm is going only into corn and beans this year. Soybean planting will come later, he says.

“You’re always concerned about the weather after you plant the corn,” says a nearby Clay County farmer, Minn., who declined to be identified by name. “If it gets cold and it doesn’t come up? That could happen in May just as it did two years ago. With the forecast right now, it looks like it’s going to be warm enough to get the corn out of the ground and that’s the most important thing. It froze off two years ago: it just comes right back. But if it gets cold and wet and the seed is just lying in the ground, and it doesn’t come up, that’s when it seems like you’ve got the most problems.”

Farther west, farmers are in full-swing for spring wheat planting.

Rick Sorch was planting Kelby spring wheat about four miles south of Wilton, N.D., on April 4. He was applying anhydrous ammonia and dry fertilizer in the same trip, into flax stubble.

“This’ll be the third day,” he says. “We haven’t gotten stuck yet, but it’s been close. The springs are all running.”

Change in rotation

Sorch, 43, farms with his father, Lawrence, who’s been farming for some 50 years. They raise wheat and flax but may need to go to sunflowers or soybeans — “change the rotation here” — he explains, based on price trends. The good moisture in the past couple of years encourages some thinking outside of the box.

About half of the farm is planted to wheat. They can plant about 160 acres a day, so it doesn’t take long. About 25 percent of the wheat planting was completed on April 4, and the earliest he’d remembered planting before was April 8, so he’s at least a week ahead.

Planting progress is easier this year than last year, when 200 acres weren’t planted because it was too muddy. The financial results in 2011 weren’t what the Sorches had expected. It was so wet they didn’t get the bushels they wanted — wheat averaged 30 to 32 bushels an acre.

“Fifty bushels would be nice, but 45 for sure,” Sorch says. “With the expenses we can’t really have anything less than that.”