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Projections show Minn. crops need a significant temps hike

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GILFILLAN -- Warmer temperatures are needed, and quickly, if the region's crops are going to be mature by the time the first frost comes this fall.

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Mark Seeley, University of Minnesota Extension climatologist, says the cool summer needs to warm up, specifically at least 3 degrees warmer than the normal temperature, for the lagging crops to catch up and be mature by first frost.

The state recorded the third coldest July ever recorded. Plus, it's as dry as the severe drought year of 1988, he said Tuesday at the U of M tent at Farmfest. "The crops this year are limping along on the (existing) soil moisture," he said. "The only distinction is that in '88 we were bombarded with heat."

Extension researchers are using data from Marshall to illustrate their point.

As of July 31, the crops were 13 percent, or eight to 11 days, behind normal historical crop development for 105-day relative maturity corn.

If the weather warms, at least 3 degrees more than normal, the gap will close and the crop will reach maturity well ahead of the first frost, the data show.

With normal or average temperatures, the crop will not mature until the first week of October, which is historically about the same time as the first frost strikes.

"We are a flip of the coin on whether we make it or not," Seeley said.

And, if the cool weather continues, the projection is that the crop will not be mature by first frost. That may spell yield losses and higher drying costs for farmers.

The weather is expected to warm this week to 90 degrees or more, Seeley said, but how long the warmth persists remains in question. Weather outlooks are calling for continued cooler-than-normal temperatures, he said.

Crop development has been good, even if the soil below the fields is dry, according to U of M Extension crop specialist David Nicolai, who is based in Hutchinson. The crop's potential remains, but rain is needed soon for the crops, especially the corn, to make yields.

In addition to stress from lack of moisture, soybean fields may be under pressure from spider mites, aphids, soybean cyst nematode and iron chlorosis, he added. Nicolai urged farmers to get out and scout fields for mites and aphids now to determine if pesticide treatments are needed.

The weekly crop weather report from the Agricultural Statistics Service, released Monday, shows that 54 percent of the state's topsoil has adequate moisture, with 33 percent rated short and 13 percent rated very short of moisture.

The corn crop was rated at 74 percent good and the beans as 67 percent good. Eighty percent of the corn crop is at or beyond the silking stage, compared to 90 percent for the five-year average. Meanwhile, 77 percent of the soybean crop is blooming, down from a five-year average of 90 percent.

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