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Most crops doing fine in cool, wet weather

Rick Harrison irrigates a field east of Powell last week. This year’s rainy, cool spring has delayed planting of some crops in the Powell area. Rick Harrison irrigates a field east of Powell last week. This year’s rainy, cool spring has delayed planting of some crops in the Powell area. Tribune photo by Carla Wensky

A cold winter followed by a rainy, wet spring has delayed planting of some crops, although the extra moisture is helping sugar beets, barley, oats and other crops already in the ground.

“We’re on track for a nice crop,” said Mark Bjornestad, Western Sugar Cooperative field man. “Yeah, it’s a little bit later than normal” but if conditions stay favorable, the plants will catch up.

Across the Lovell factory district, Bjornestad said, 94 to 95 percent of this year’s beets have been planted. It’s mostly fields in the Lovell and Emblem areas that remain unplanted.

Grower Fred Hopkin concurred that sugar beet fields in Big Horn County are getting a later start.

“Here in the (Big Horn) Basin the spring was a little bit delayed,” Hopkin said. He got into his fields around Penrose just east of Powell, but “the further east you went it was wetter and wetter.”

He also farms east of Lovell, where fields got dry enough to be worked about three weeks ago, but he wasn’t able to plant the rest of his barley until seven to 10 days ago.

“Around Cody people were farming and we just couldn’t do anything because of the wet ground,” he said. ”We planted as soon as we could.”

The long, bleak winter took its toll, Hopkin said — a Presidents Day storm dumped about 7 inches of snow on the already snow-covered ground, followed by “a lot of rain, no sun and really no wind.” With temperatures dipping below zero every month from November through the first of March — also unusual — his Big Horn County fields took longer to thaw.

But fields in those areas around Lovell and Emblem usually mature faster since it’s commonly warmer there, Hopkin said. With similar irrigation those fields should mature about the same time as the Powell flat.

“There’s no reason to be overly concerned at this point,” Hopkin said. “We all want it to be perfect, but this is close enough.”

“Those grain fields look really good,” Hopkin said, after the soaking rains.

Some sugar beet growers also planted their fields a little later than usual, said Heart Mountain grower Ric Rodriguez. With Roundup Ready seed in short supply, they hoped the delay makes it less likely they’ll have to replant if fields freeze, he said.

“I think everybody delayed a little bit,” he said, “but there is seed available.”

Rodriguez recorded about an inch and half of rain the past few days, which combined with cold overnight temperatures raises some concerns about freezing, but so far, so good.

Locally planted beet varieties are good producers, Rodriguez noted, and even growers who had to replant last year after a May freeze “still got 28-ton beets. I hope we don’t have this cold weather in the fall.”

Mike Moore of the University of Wyoming Seed Certification Service said that none of his growers seem worried by the cold, damp weather. Dry beans aren’t usually planted until mid-May.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service reported this week that planting of most crops across Wyoming is slightly behind this time last year. Statewide, only 6 percent of corn was planted by Monday, compared to 51 percent at this time last year. Statewide, 48 percent of sugar beets were planted, compared to 86 percent this time last year.

Steve Gunn of the USDA’s Cheyenne field office said Wednesday that the statistic service’s weekly report is based on reporting by people in each county. Specific information from Park and Big Horn counties was not available.

Hopkin said more people in Park County are planting corn, because prices are high.

“I know people growing corn who have never grown corn,” he said.

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