Weather extremes slow progress for area farmers

Farmers in Northeast Missouri are hopeful for a dry weekend as they work to plant crops in saturated soil made wetter by heavy spring rainfall.
Posted: May. 17, 2019 4:33 pm

Farmers in Northeast Missouri took advantage of drier conditions during the past few days, but progress is still slow as parts of farmland remain wet and the chance for weekend storms looms in the forecast.

During the past few weeks, farmers and ranchers in the area have faced difficulty working the land for new crops. In some cases, farmers were harvesting last year's crops. Farmers weren't able to plant new crops amid saturated soil and recent heavy rainfall over the past few weeks. Although spring's wet and cool conditions have significantly slowed progress in the area, farmers are forging ahead and hoping for drier conditions to enable more crops to go into the ground.

Along the Mississippi River bottoms, farmers are working on what they can as they keep an eye on the river, said Brent Hoerr, who farms on river bottoms and serves as secretary with the Missouri Corn Growers Association. He's been able to plant some corn in high spots on his farm, but much of the land is still too wet.

“I'm finally back in the field, so I'm happy for that,” he said. “But it will be a while before I can plant some more.”

He said a friend of his near St. Louis began working his fields yesterday for the first time. The spring's combination of cooler temperatures and several instances of heavy rainfall have worked against farmers who are on a tight timetable for some crops. Hoerr said more rain could further push planting back, stressing that late May is almost too late to begin planting corn.

“It's been a wet spring, so you've just go to do the best you can and try to make the best of it,” he said.

Kenny Lovelace, fellow farmer and member of the Marion County Soil and Water Conservation Board, agreed with Hoerr about hopes for a dry weekend and future warmth and breezes to help dry the fields.

The National Weather Service is predicting a 90 percent chance of thunderstorms for Saturday evening, with the chance for storms diminishing from 90 percent to 60 percent for Sunday. It was 84 degrees with a humidity level of 40 percent at the Hannibal Regional Airport Friday afternoon, with 10 MPH winds.

The Missouri River's flooding severely impacted farmers in the southwest portion of the state — numerous farms in that region and in Iowa completely submerged, resulting in heavy losses of crops and livestock. According to the National Weather Service, the Mississippi River remained above flood stage Friday despite dropping water levels in Northeast Missouri communities of Clarksville, Hannibal, LaGrange and Louisiana.

Lovelace said the wet conditions capped off several months of extremes. Many farmers lost calves during cold spells in the winter. He bagged silage and bought hay before winter so his cows had plenty of food and warm places to rest. Some of Lovelace's neighbors already have corn planted, but he reported that progress had been slow.

“It's just kind of few and far between — especially our area,” he said. “I've travel a little bit, and you don't have to get very far, and there's more done. It just depends on where you're at.”

Lovelace attended a recent meeting in Boonville, reporting that more farmers are planting corn and soybeans. During last season's drought, several farmers suffered losses to their corn crops, while soybeans returned after late rainfall in many cases. As Lovelace and fellow farmers hope for dry conditions and drying breezes, they remain prepared to respond to whatever Mother Nature brings next.

“It's been quite a year,” Lovelace said.

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