Historic flooding, cool spring and hot summer bring various challenges for area farmers
A season of extreme weather conditions has halted many processes for local farmers, caused second and third plantings of crops and brought about new uses for land.
Throughout Marion County neighboring regions, you'll see a mixture of conditions following spring's historic flooding — breached levees in the Marion County Drainage District of the Mississippi bottoms, parched land that received precipitation from a strong storm that hit much of Marion County Wednesday afternoon, corn that was ankle-high, not “knee high by the 4th of July” — as the old saying goes, Marion County Farm Bureau President Joe Kendrick said — and plots of land where farmers were re-applying nitrogen and other nutrients to the soil that had been washed away during spring rainfall. Wet ground delayed planting for many farmers during the spring, and floodwaters covered multiple acres in the Mississippi River bottoms.
Kendrick raises hogs and grows corn and soybeans. He recently got all of his crops planted, and he said some of his neighbors were at a similar stage. Others opted not to plant soybeans this season, and some farmers planted cover crops to use as silage, hay or for grazing.
“For the most part, everybody's done, finally,” he said. “A lot of it's pretty late, and this weather we're having right now is not going to be favorable to us.”
Spring rain and cool temperatures made it too difficult for many farmers to work the land and get seeds in the ground — several were still harvesting last year's crops when they would normally be planting this year's crops. As a result, Kendrick said that he had three different plantings of corn, and he planted the majority of the corn during the latest stage.
The soil possesses good sub-moisture levels, but the heavy rains have packed the dirt down, making it difficult for the roots to make their way through. Kendrick said the remainder of the week and the weekend would be “pretty hard on things.” He noticed that the soil was cracked and dry in several places. A lot of the first plantings of corn “got away from us” and farmers have had to reapply nitrogen and other nutrients to try and make up for the loss.
Corn prices are up a bit, but Kendrick said farmers expected a lot of “wet corn” that would require additional input costs of propane to dry. Some farmers were unable to plant crops on their land, and Kendrick commended United States Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and other members of the United States Department of Agriculture for changing regulations to help encourage cover crop planting and earlier harvesting for livestock grazing, silage and hay production. Last year, hay was in short supply, and now farmers can plant crops that can be ready within 30-45 days. Farmers can now harvest those crops in September instead of the previous rule that called for them to wait until November.
“They've gone and changed some things, and they made it more useful for the farmers — yet it's still getting that cover out there on the ground and into the soil,” he said.
Kendrick and fellow farmers were hopeful the heat that caused parts of his land to develop cracks would ease up and accompany timely rainfall. He said that the harvest would be late this year, but there was still a good chance that many farmers would harvest a “pretty fair crop.” Kendrick and other farmers know that the Show-Me State's often-unpredictable weather can have a considerable bearing between now and harvest season.
“This year has definitely been a year of extremes,” he said.