Areafarmers watching frequent rain effects on corn, beans

Princeton area farmers Tim Wilhelm and Dale Shelley have something in common with farmers in Indiana, Nebraska, Missouri and southern Illinois in that weather will be the major factor in what they harvest.

The main difference, however, will likely be that of weather conditions.

Wilhelm said the states to the south are experiencing very dry conditions.

In east central Minnesota there have been shots of frequent rains starting in mid- to late-June this year.

Wilhelm’s summary of his corn and soybean crops as of June 19, “Very good (where the fields drain properly) to very poor where it is under water and everything in between.”

“Timing is everything,” he said, explaining why some of his corn does not look as tall or lush as corn on a field southeast of him a few miles. That particular corn southeast of him, he said, was put in earlier than his corn and was able to take advantage of better conditions.

Wilhelm noted that his own fields have crops that are “spotty in height and spotty in color because the roots in some places have not taken up the fertilizer, the roots are not very deep and in some cases the fertilizer washed away.”

Wilhelm and Shelley both said that they wouldn’t mind if the rains stopped for about a week.

However, both also agreed that they want the rains to be frequent enough without large gaps this summer because the roots did not go deep this spring because of so much moisture. It is better to have a drier spring, so the roots go down deep and aren’t so dependent on rains later, Shelley said.

Shelley had a better report on his crops, saying that his corn in particular looks “absolutely beautiful.” He said he took advantage of the early spring to begin planting corn on April 11 and got all of 1,400 acres of corn in early. He farms with his father Ron Shelley on mostly heavier ground but also farms on some sand.

Some of the Shelley corn is waist high, Shelley said 14 days before July 4, when farmers traditionally like to have their corn at least knee high.

Shelley did say there was a “fair amount” of his ground where the rains washed out the crop and he had to replant but he believes he has enough good crop to balance that out.

Extension educator’s report

University of Minnesota Extension Service educator Dan Martens, who works in Benton, Stearns and Morrison counties, noted that the rainfalls in his area have “varied quite a bit” this spring.

Excess rain, he said, can even pose problems on sandy soil, which does drain better than the loam ground that has more clay. But excess rain on sandy soil tends to leach some of the nutrients past the root zone, he explained.

Heavy ground, on the other hand, when the ground gets saturated, and the low spots become flooded, can cause crops to get “very yellow,” Martens said. That is because the soil no longer has the normal amount of oxygen that the roots need, he explained. Plus, wet, heavy ground presents issues of getting onto the fields for applying herbicides, he said. Also not applying herbicides in a timely manner, allows weeds to suck out nutrients and the weeds grow to where they are more difficult to kill, Martens added.

Farmers in the above situation may arrange to get a different type of herbicide and if applying them is too difficult with conventional means, might think of arranging for aerial spraying, he said. Also, the High Boy tractors that are specialized for spraying are lighter and easier to move across wet ground, he noted.

Farmers “have been through this (weather) pattern before,” Martens continued. “It’s not what you want but you get up each day and see what you can do today.”

Farmers look around at other things they can accomplish when the fields are wet, like repairing machinery or getting parts, and maybe even spending more family time, he added.

Martens also commented about the dilemmas of frequent rains disrupting hay harvesting. “We have guys who are looking at starting (to cut) second crop because they started early in May (harvesting a first crop),” he said.

If it is too wet to bale dry hay, a farmer might want to consider making baleage, which is to bale hay wet into large bales with a covering of plastic, he said.