Farmers running out of time after wet-weather delays

Local farmers face record delays for planting

Area farmers, running out of time to plant their fields after record delays, need nearly perfect upcoming weather to save normal outputs following an unusually wet spring, and more delays could affect consumer prices.

Between January and May, 23.27 inches of rain or melted snow and ice have accumulated at the Dayton International Airport, which is 6.23 inches more than normal, according to StormCenter 7 meteorologists.

With the ground saturated, only 50 percent of Ohio’s corn crop was planted as of last Monday, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Nearly all corn is usually planted by that time.

Soybeans were even further behind, with 32 percent planted, down 57 percent from their five-year average of 89 percent at that time.

Lower yields could affect consumers down the road, though most corn and bean product prices don’t adjust as quickly as for some non-commodities, said Ty Higgins, spokesman for the Ohio Farm Bureau. Meat prices could rise faster as farmers run low on corn and beans to feed livestock.

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“Mother Nature doesn’t look like she wants to totally give us the ideal conditions as of right now,” said Chad Mason, a farmer in Clinton and Greene counties. “We’ve already kind of figured, some of us who have planted corn, there could be quite a significant loss — a drop in bushels.”

Over the weekend and into this week, there is potential for up to four more inches of rain, said StormCenter 7 Meteorologist Dontae Jones. That’s just in time to halt soybean planting before the prevent plant insurance deadline on Thursday . Prevent plant insurance covers farmers who aren’t able to plant their crop.

Most of the farmers in the Miami Valley were able to plant at least some acres. Some switched their corn fields to soybeans, which have a later planting date, and others took prevent plant insurance for fields they couldn’t work. But area farmers who have been able to plant most of their fields are still concerned about the yields.

“Even though things have gotten planted, I still don’t have a warm fuzzy feeling about things,” said Darke County farmer Michael Brehm. “Getting planted this late, we don’t know what Mother Nature’s going to do.”

Delayed planting can cause major yield losses. Farmers are in danger of yielding 20 to 40 percent less soybeans that are planted in late June, according to researchers at the College of Food, Agriculture and Environmental Services at Ohio State University. Corn planted past June 15 could only produce 40 percent of its normal yield, said Sam Custer, OSU extension agent for Darke County.

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Continued poor weather could mean even more losses, Brehm said. Farmers who “mudded it in,” or did everything possible to plant in wet ground, could have issues with their trenches closing over the seed, allowing access to bugs or the possibility of seeds drying out.

The wet patches with standing water around which farmers planted could also grow larger, drowning out what they’ve already planted and producing a haven for bacteria that could disease the crops, said Brian Harbage, a Clark County farmer.

Like with planting, wet fields will keep farmers from applying nitrogen to feed the crop and spraying herbicide to keep weeds down.

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This year’s wet season means farmers will have difficult conversations with their bankers about their loans and co-ops about the contracts they’ve signed to sell grain later this year that they couldn’t plant, Higgins said.

“For some farmers, they’ll be able to withstand a year like this. Some farmers simply won’t be able to farm in 2020 because of what’s happening here this year,” he said.

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