by Karen Mead-Elford, co-editor

   Worrisome delays in crop planting due to the seemingly endless wet weather, has numerous area farmers frustrated because they have been unable to return to their fields. The latest round of heavy rain that hit over the weekend saw as much as four inches of precipitation delivered in just a few hours over Monday night – saturating fields, creeks, ditches and even overflowing across rural roads. The combination of cold and wet is minimizing the planting season, particularly for corn.

   In Michigan, corn contributes almost $1 billion to the economy. A narrow planting window for corn means that ideally, corn should be planted in mid-May or at least not later than June 5. The June deadline is due to the necessity farmers have for farm insurance, which sees a profitability decrease of about one percent for every day beyond June 5 – the final suggested plant date.

   Mark Klett, a crop insurance specialist with GreenStone Farm Credit Services, shared, “The biggest fear I have this year is primarily for the corn crop. Since we are short on heat units, a function of the day and night temperatures, which corn maturity is based off. It leads to low test weight.” Heat units describes a formula utilized in planting corn, recognizing a growing season where corn needs an established number of days and higher temperatures to emerge. Low-test weight is in reference to corn yield where the kernel weight might be less due to stress.

   Mark Zacharda farms 1,350 acres, mostly in the southwest quadrant of Shiawassee County. His father began farming in the area in the 1960s and Mark eventually joined him. Approximately 200 of the acres they farm are actually family-owned. The majority is rented. Like many area farmers, crops mostly include corn, wheat and soybeans.

   Zacharda stated that he has 305 acres of corn planted this spring – roughly 20 percent of where he hoped to be at with planting. He knows that some of the corn planted earlier will “drown or be washed out, though some might survive.” His current secondary plan, similar to many local farmers, now falls back to planting soybeans. The soybean insurance deadline is set for Saturday, June 15. After recent rain, farmers are in need of a solid week of dry, warm air for saturated fields – meaning that the soybean deadline is also a questionable risk. Zacharda describes it as a “roll of the dice.” Plus factoring in issues such as China’s soybean imports falling by 24 percent in May, just as one example, it becomes quite complicated for local farmers to determine where to go with planting under such damp conditions.

   Obviously, Michigan isn’t the only state affected by record wet weather. Other overburdened states include Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, South Dakota and Ohio.

   “All the “I” states, the biggest agriculture states, have been wet,” said Zacharda. “We hope we can plant more beans, hope for another window before the end of the month and to have a good growing season. We could be profitable if markets are positive. You just need to be that lucky farmer.”

    “There is no normal year anymore,” continued Zacharda, referencing the drought in the summer of 2018. “We get doused with rain and then we dry up. We get one extreme or the other, too wet or too dry.”

   Klett, from Greenstone, who has been involved with the Michigan agriculture scene since the 1980s, expressed that he has seen “a couple of wet springs, but nothing this wet and this late. 2012 was a bad year, but ended up being a drought.”

   Klett also explained that this unusual season could play out in a number of other areas. He mentioned that dairy operations might be “pressed for feed” if hay doesn’t do well.

   Klett also shared that a lot of people “that don’t work in ag, don’t understand the total amount in investments farmers need to grow a crop these days … Crop insurance is unique because essentially farmers are insuring their income. They are paying real money for that insurance. It’s a risk management tool.”

   As for an up note … “Rain makes grain. This may be helping the wheat,” said Zacharda. “Some areas might be drowning, but we might have a nice wheat harvest.” Wheat is planted in the fall, often during the first part of October.

Wet Weather Pushes Farmers Past Crop Deadlines was last modified: June 17th, 2019 by Karen Elford