Early warm weather encourages Colorado, Nebraska farmers to prepare for planting | TheFencePost.com

Early warm weather encourages Colorado, Nebraska farmers to prepare for planting

While many across the Plains celebrated an unexpected snow day last week, northeastern Nebraska farmer Sam Hake was restless. The storm put a damper on the chores around his farm.

And he's not one to delay things.

When an unusually warm spring — save that pesky storm — kissed his fields with good conditions, he prepared for planting.

Everything he does to ready his corn crop is about two weeks ahead of schedule. Even though he won't put seeds to soil until almost the end of April, his fertilizer is already on the ground, as are his other ground treatments. Hake, who is an agronomist at a local chemical retailer, said that's the norm for the area, too.

Most of the farmers in his area won't hit the fields to plant until the middle of the coming month, either. It's a safer bet against hard freezes, and farmers prefer safer bets these days with low commodity prices. Hake said crop insurance recommendations and personal preference also play into the decision.

"Everybody has their own thing," he said. "I feel that in the past, (April 25) has worked very well for us."

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Jeff Theis, a farmer in Geneva, Neb., has a similar mentality. He won't plant his corn until after April 10, and doubts many in his area will.

"Everyone knows the importance of doing things right," he said. "Especially with low commodity prices I don't expect anyone to start early."

He's been out in his fields doing prep work, too. As the winter storm was coming through last week, he wasn't worried about the snow messing up any of the work he'd done. He said his area could use more moisture to prepare for the coming crop.

Ryan Fagerberg with northern Colorado's Fagerberg Produce said he wasn't worried the storm would hurt his new onion crop — some of which was just planted in Fort Morgan. The produce company uses a cover crop system to keep the soil safe from the harsh wind spring storms can bring. Since the seeds were just planted and hadn't sprouted yet, Fagerberg said there was little to no chance the cold could hurt them.

After the much appreciated moisture from this snowstorm soaks into the soil and dries up, his company's farmers will hit fields in Gilcrest, Fort Collins, Windsor and Eaton to plant seed onions.

Their fields are ready, so he expects everything to speed up exponentially as the soil dries out.

"We pretty much have everything ready as far as machinery," he said. "It's gonna go zero to 100 miles an hour, I have a feeling, in the next few weeks here."

No matter where they're at in planting, Hake said there's one thing he thinks every farmer has in common – they've got a lot riding on 2016.

He's seen many farmers who bought new pickups or tractors when the economy was good that now are saddled with payments that they can't make.

While he's always been the type to hope for the best and plan for the worst, he knows that too many farmers right now are on the edge of the worst becoming the reality.

"I feel that 2016 is going to be a make or break (year)," he said. ❖

USDA planting projections

According to the the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Grains and Oilseeds Outlook for 2016, released Feb. 26, corn plantings are projected to increase slightly nationwide, since fertilizer and fuel prices are lower. Wheat and soybean planted acreage is projected down,