Farm Horizons, August 2014

Local farmers experience delayed planting, drowned fields due to record rainfall

By Starrla Cray

Take a drive down just about any rural road in the area, and it’s easy to see that this year has been a bit on the strange side, weather-wise.

Instead of soybeans in dense green rows and sky-high corn all set to tassel, fields are often black and empty, or overrun with weeds.

“This is the worst I’ve seen it,” said Scott Schmitz, who does custom bagging for farmers in many areas of the state.

Mike Meuleners of Norwood Young America, who has been farming for more than 40 years, agrees. Because of continuous rains earlier in the season, only about 10 percent of his crops were planted by mid-summer.

Rain, rain, go away

“It just kept raining and raining,” Meuleners said, estimating that his fields have soaked up about 30 inches of rain since Easter.

Paul Neaton of Watertown recalled that every time the fields were almost dry enough for planting, there would be another downpour.

Even with significant tiling, about 40 percent of Neaton’s fields were still unplanted in July. In his 44 years of farming, Neaton said he’s never had a year like this; other than one unplanted field in 2013, he’s always managed to get in during planting season.

Many farmers in Carver, McLeod, Wright, and Meeker counties ended up returning the seeds they had purchased earlier in the year.

“It cost the seed companies a lot, too,” Meuleners said.

Neaton and Meuleners are both putting in oats as a cover crop this year.

“We’re spraying the weeds right now,” Meuleners said July 18.

A soggy situation

Of the fields that did get planted, the expected yield is hit-or-miss.

“We probably have about 13 percent drowned out; the corn that did get planted doesn’t look very good,” Meuleners said, explaining that although the best areas are shoulder height, other stalks are only up to his knees.

Neaton said about 10 percent of his planted fields drowned out, as well.

If the weather cooperates from now on, Meuleners said a corn yield of 140 bushels per acre is possible.

“That’s if we’re lucky,” he said. “I might be too optimistic.”

High yields elsewhere

Nationwide, the corn crop is expected to be quite large, with potential to set a new record.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) predicts an average of yield of 165.3 bushels per acre, which is 6.5 bushels per acre higher than last year. (The all-time high corn yield record in the US was set by David Hula of Virginia in 2013, at 454 bushels per acre, according to the National Corn Growers Association.)

Schmitz, who has clients 60 miles north and south of the Twin Cities, said some areas of the state had less trouble than others. Glencoe, for example, saw 14.24 inches of rain in June, while the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reported 4.47 inches in Duluth.

Certain spots in individual fields are faring better than others, as well.

“The fields are so uneven, especially the corn,” Neaton said. “We’ve got some very nice corn, and some awful corn, in the same field.”

The 2014 harvest still remains to be seen, and as always, weather could help or hurt.

“We’ll need 85 degrees and higher, and we can’t have an early frost,” Schmitz said.

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