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SCOTTSBLUFF — The rains over Easter Sunday and forecasts of snow for early next week have forced many sugar beet farmers to play catch up with planting.
“We’re off to a slow start,” said Jerry Darnell, Western Sugar Cooperative vice president of agriculture, south region. As of Tuesday, Darnell said planting was about 10% complete.
On Wednesday afternoon, Justin Relka was at work planting a field southeast of Mitchell.
“I waited until about 2 p.m. trying to decide if it was too wet or not to start,” Relka said. “With the rain that’s coming, I said that we have to get going and try and get them in.”
Relka said he normally plants about 250 acres of beets.
“When I get done with this field, I’ll have about 100 (acres) in,” he said. “I’m a little behind, but everybody is.”
Rain on Wednesday night into Thursday morning was enough to keep farmers out of the field for a day and a half, grower Kendall Busch said Thursday.
Attempting to plant in the fields that are too wet means growers run the risk of compacting the soil in their fields, but Busch said growers are starting to get desperate.
“They could get out Friday, Saturday and possibly Sunday,” he said. “You don’t want the soil compaction but, again, you look at the forecast, if you’ve got a window, you’ve got to take advantage of it, even if the conditions aren’t right.”
Busch said he was fortunate enough to wrap up his planting late last Friday.
“I’m smiling pretty good right now,” he said. “That rain we had on Easter Sunday ruined some Easter egg hunts, but it sure made a nice rain for emerging the beets.”
The mid-March blizzard, followed by another smaller blizzard about 30 days after, brought some moisture, however, most of the precipitation was pushed into drifts on the edges of fields. Ground temperatures across much of the Panhandle have also been colder than normal, according to the University of Nebraska’s late April forecast.
“It’s still early enough that it’s not a problem as of yet,” Busch said. “But if we stay out of the fields all of next week, we’re getting into that May 5-May 10 timeline, and you start getting a reduction in tonnage (at harvest).”
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May 1, 2019 at 02:47PM