A little wet, but mostly good
HUTCHINSON, Minn — Ryan Bushman has seen many good crops during his time in the Hutchinson, Minn., area. He's optimistic that 2018 is bringing another.
"It's looking good. We're a little wet in places, but it's really coming along," says Bushman, owner and operator of Prairie Road Crop Consulting in Hutchinson.
Agweek visited with Bushman during a late-June swing through eastern Minnesota. Crops in the Hutchinson area generally were a vibrant, healthy green, though some some yellowish patches — and the puddles of water in which they stood — reflected the heavy rains that have hit many fields.
The town of 14,000, named after the Hutchinson brothers and the biggest in McLeod County, is about 60 miles west of Minneapolis. Hutchinson's economy is diversified, with manufacturing (3M is a major employer in town), retail and medical leading the way.
Corn and soybeans dominate in the Hutchinson area, just as they do in much of Minnesota. Spring wheat once was common in in the area, and the crop still is grown here, albeit on a limited scale.
"It's pretty hard to find now," Bushman says of spring wheat, which generally doesn't provide enough profit for farmers in his area to grow.
Small amounts of sweet corn, peas, tomatoes and cucumbers for the fresh market are raised in the area, too.
Alfalfa is grown here, as well, most of it fed locally to dairy cattle. Crops account for about 80 percent of Hutchinson-area farm income, dairy the rest, Bushman estimates.
Many of the small dairy farms in the area have gone out of business over time, which also reflects the longstanding Upper Midwest trend.
Late spring, hot stretch
Spring came late to the Hutchinson area this year, delaying the start of planting. But the crop generally was planted in good order, though later than ideal. Now, after a mid-June hot stretch, crops "have caught up and passed where we were (in crop development) a year ago," Bushman says.
Bushman, who works with farmers in a 50-mile radius of Hutchinson, has lived in the area since 1982 and owned his agronomy business since 2001.
Farmers here typically shoot for yields of at least 175-188 bushels per acre for corn and 48-52 bushels per acre of soybeans. Those yields — and even ones much better — are possible if the weather cooperates this summer, Bushman says.
In the short term, fields in dryish areas need rain within the next week or 10 days, while fields in wet areas would benefit from 10 days without rain.
After that, "An inch or two of rain every 10 days would be ideal," he says.
Like other Upper Midwest agriculturalists, Bushman knows that uncooperative weather during the rest of the growing season could sabotage promising crops. But for now, "Other than being a little wet, we're doing well," he says.