Growers cautiously optimistic on crops with extended rainfall

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Tall fields of corn can be found throughout the area as rains have watered crops every day for almost two straight weeks. Photo by Deb Wuethrich.

What a difference a year makes. Last July under unusually high temperatures and drought conditions, cornfields looked wilted and had tops like pineapples. This year, rain has been in the forecast nearly every day, causing local growers to be happy to be getting the moisture for crops such as corn, but prompting some concern about other crops.

“Some farmers are saying they’re glad to have it, but ‘enough is enough,’” said Tom Van Wagner, who is a consultant technician with the Lenawee Conservation District. “Some are saying that they’re seeing the best corn crop they’ve ever grown from a standpoint that there are great stands, quality stands, and by the growth on them. Corn needs a lot of moisture.”

He said rain in the spring forecasts kept some farmers from getting into the fields when they would have liked to, but those that were able seem to be doing quite well as far as corn goes.

Michigan State University Extension Director Matt Shane agrees.

“The farmers I’ve talked to are feeling pretty good,” said Shane. “I’m sure there are some flooded areas and some pockets in the county, but things are way greener than last year. It’s a night-and-day difference between then and now.”
Shane said those who grow hay are among growers facing a challenge right now.

“I think they’re the ones struggling because we haven’t had four or five good days to get the hay cut and baled on time,” he said.

Van Wagner said that wheat producers also are facing a challenge, especially around areas such as Riga.

“There is a potential for 100- to 120-bushel wheat this year, which is a huge crop, but getting there is the issue,” Van Wagner said. “We’ve had some hail go through and there is concern that the crop could start sprouting. A lot of these guys have drainage systems that are adequate, but it’s a small window to get it all done.”

Tecumseh grower Edsel Brooks, who farms land along M-50 calls the rainy conditions “kind of a mixed bag.”

“The wheat harvest is going to be wet,” he said. “The fields are going to be wet and we’ll have tracks cut in the field with the combine. It’s not going to be easy.”

He said his corn and beans that are on lighter ground are looking good where there’s adequate drainage, but some crops on heavier ground could have crops that will be stunted or dying.

“It’s good to have the moisture, but we’ve had more than enough for awhile,” Brooks said. “I wish we could save some for the next two months.” He added that soybeans could have a little problem if the rain continues the way it has.

“Beans don’t like to see the wet conditions and like a little stress and dry weather,” he said. “They usually get through the rains, then start growing again. But we’ve had a little too much.”

Brooks and his wife, Linda, typically monitor the weather forecasts on the Internet on her iPad. “After today, there’s a little chance of clearing up for awhile,” he said. Having farmed their whole lives, the couple understands that it’s a risky occupation given each year’s weather variances.

Van Wagner said some of the soybean plants are yellowed right now because of the excess moisture.

“They don’t like water as much, but they will usually grow out. It’s not necessarily killing them,” he said, adding that a lot has to do with whether the fields can drain off excess water.

Todd Klanke, who owns Todd’s Garden at 507 S. Maumee St, said those who grow fresh produce are having a little harder time, especially on certain types of fields.

“My fields are on Dinius and they’re like a clay-loam, and my produce is pretty much under water right now,” he said. “I still get some crops like squash and kale and some others but we’ll have to wait and see on the tomatoes. It’s one of those kind of years. My crops didn’t like that much rain.”

Van Wagner said those who grow the larger crops have overall been pretty happy to get some rain this year. “But there is a little tentative concern that we not get too much,” he said. “Especially those farmers who need to get in the fields and can’t because it’s too wet for spraying beans or harvesting wheat. So there’s a little concern, but not too much. I think we’d rather have it this way than what they had last year with the drought conditions.”

Van Wagner said last year, the county averaged half its normal yield in field crops and hoped to do much better this year.

Shane said it would be a wait-and-see venture. “From what I’m hearing, things are in pretty good shape,” he said. “Of course if it turns really hot on us again and we get the heat stress or a lot more rain, it could be a different story.”




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