Rain puts a damper on harvest

More rain leads to soggy conditions in the fields

Photo by Jody Isaackson In the above photo, some farmers are dealing with large wet spots in fields. This field was spotted along Lyon County Road 35 on the north edge of Marshall.

MARSHALL — Harvest in southwest Minnesota started out looking great, according to local farmers and was actually on its way to being done early. That is until the rains set in — again.

Farmers racing against the weather to get their crops in, are now facing the same wet spots left by this summer’s multiple rainstorms that cause farmers to leave untold bushels in the field to avoid getting stuck.

In addition to possibility putting farmers behind schedule, which makes for a for a nerve-wracking fall, there is the concern that the weather will damage crops. Rain can damage crops in the field by causing mold or structural problems, Minnesota Public Radio reported. Parts of Minnesota have seen more than 10 inches of rainfall in the last six weeks.

“It’s a very nerve-wracking time of year right now with this delayed harvest,” said Jim Gill, a crop consultant in the Northfield area.

The wet weather has affected the soybean harvest the most. Farmers like to pick the crop first because the plant’s pods can pop open and the beans could fall to the ground if they are left in the field for too long.

Michael Wojahn, who farms in southwest Minnesota, said he hasn’t started harvesting soybeans because they’re not yet mature. Instead, he is harvesting corn. He said the wet weather has prevented the corn kernels from drying in the field, so he has to dry the corn with propane gas before storing it, otherwise the crop could rot.

Farmers around the Marshall area have stopped all together because of the near-constant rain this week.

“The corn crop now at this point has started to get a lot of stalk rot,” Gill said, “which was promoted by a humid, wet late August and September. The viability of the corn stalks right now is starting to diminish daily.”

Weather forecasts indicate that the state may see dryer conditions next week. This means farmers will harvest non-stop, said South Central College agriculture dean Brad Schloesser.

“When it does dry out, we’re able to put an awful lot of harvest activity under way,” said Schloesser, “and see that crop get harvested and put into storage very rapidly.”

Farmers are racing to harvest as much crop before the winter weather and snow stop harvesting activity.

“We avoided the big rains (earlier),” Boerboom Ag Resources owner Greg Boerboom of Marshall said late last week. “The fields are in better shape than we expected.”

Corn was running in the low 20s for moisture. Over all there were a few drowned out spots, and some with zero bushels. The current rains may have an adverse affect on this.

“The corn market won’t affect us much as we feed our corn to our hogs,” Boerboom said. “Prices on soybeans are not locked it. We’ll store ours in our bins and see what happens.”

Before the recent rains, Cottonwood farmer Carolyn Olson told the Independent some parts of her fields had damaged crops.

“We planted 1,100 total acres this year,” Olson said. “Roughly one-third each of small grain, soybeans and corn. Our soybeans fields had more rain damage than our cornfields. We have quite a few corn acres drowned out and other soft spots and areas we’re tiptoeing through.

“It really pays to have your fields pattern-tiled this year,” she said.

Olson said their crops are yielding about the same as last year and that the moisture content in their corn is running about 21 percent.

“We dry and store our own crops,” Olson said, “and 21 percent isn’t that hard on the grain driers.”

Contracting a portion of their crops helps organic farmers avoid some of the unexpected and costly weather issues, Olson said.

“With organic crops, you look for contracts. Some of our crops are contracted for $9-9.25 per bushel,” she said. “So, we’re still above the red.”

Brad Hennen, who raises hogs, said some of his neighbors were fairing OK before the recent rains.

“They (were) getting record yields in both corn and beans.”

Hennen added that even though most farmers carry crop insurance in case of flooded crops, most have less than the required minimum acreage affected in order to collect.

“Generally it’s based on a whole farm basis,” he said.

“It’s our goal to never collect insurance,” Olson said.

— Independent reporter Jody Isaackson contributed to this report