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Recent rains soak already saturated fields

June 23, 2011
By Steve Browne , Marshall Independent

Farmers can't do without rain, but sometimes it's possible to have too much of a good thing. A wet year delayed planting in the area, and now heavy downpour have threatened crop yields.

Terry Schmidt, regional agronomy manager for agricultural service company CHS Inc., called this a "really strange year," because of unseasonably late cold and rainy weather, and the odd distribution of rain across the area.

"This year everything normally staged was done in one day," Schmidt said, "spreading fertilizer, spraying, etc. It's been a real challenge to the farmer."

Article Photos

Photo by Steve Browne
Heavy rains drenching fields like these along U.S. Highway 59 south of Marshall have threatened local crop yields and have delayed spraying.

Schmidt said if the weather turns hot soon crops should be all right, because plants can live underwater for two to three days under cloudy conditions.

If the water in the fields is able to drain and evaporate naturally the plants could still thrive. But it would be better if it were hot and cloudy.

"With the little ponds in the fields, the water acts to magnify sunlight and burns the plants underneath," Schmidt said.

Furthermore, according to Schmidt, even if the weather clears farmers should be spraying their fields for grasses and broadleaf plants right now, but they can't get the equipment into the fields as long as they're so muddy.

"Normally we don't have as much moisture this time of year," Schmidt said.?"As grass and weeds get larger it'll be tougher to kill them."

Bryan Smith, manager of the Marshall office of CENTROL Crop Consulting, said there is still hope this year, but it's definitely a stressful time for farmers.

"It's not good," Smith said. "The cool weather probably compounds double trouble. We need heat for corn to mature. If we don't get them mature before the frost, they might not even make grain."

Smith said because of the moisture some farmers are seeing in the area, particularly south of Marshall toward Balaton and in the Canby area, some have lost 10 to 20 percent of their crop. And with so much rain, the drainage system has been overwhelmed.

On top of that, the rain also leaches nitrogen from the soil.

"You could in theory apply more (fertilizer)," Smith said. "But in reality it's almost impossible when the ground's too muddy. It gets to the point for farmers of when do you stop spending money on a failing crop."

According to the National Weather Service office in Chanhassen, the rest of the week should be sunny with temperatures in the low-to-mid 70s with a 20 percent chance of thunderstorms on Sunday.

"The system we just had move through was more like a winter system, but the first half of next week looks better. There should be a turn for the warmer at the end of June beginning of July,"?said meteorologist Mike Griesinger.

A couple months of warm weather would be welcome news to farmers, but it's been an unpredictable year so far.

"Nothing this year resembles a standard year," Schmidt said. "Normally this is a fun business to be in, but this year's been kind of trying."



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