Cottrel: Clark County farmers coping with rain-soaked fields

We are dealing with it.

That is probably the best way to describe spring this year. Nothing about this growing season is normal or on schedule. Everything is saturated with rainwater so we are just dealing with it. What else could we do?

The rains have been much more than average.

Jereme Best at Clark County Soil and Water told me that we have received between six to eight inches more rain than at this time last year, and 2018 was a wet spring. This spring is off the scale.

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Mothers’ Day was last weekend and one of the most original Mother’s day bouquets I heard of did not have one flower in it. It was made entirely of spongy morel mushrooms. Really.

Morel season should be over but occasionally people are still reporting surprise morels popping up late in unusual places. Generally they are found while mowing in some place the mushrooms have never grown before.

Actually we are lucky some weeks to not get the mower stuck in the soft ground. It’s been a great year for dandelions.

Excessively wet springs have happened before. More than one person I’ve spoken with has mentioned 2011. Some years are years that are just wetter than others. 1913 was the year of the great Miami flood.

The News Sun had a lovely article recently about delaying garden planting. So our new tomato plants are camping out on our porch waiting for the soil to be workable.

Meanwhile, we are all surrounded by huge gardens called fields. After all, farming is gardening on a really huge scale. Even our cities are surrounded by fields. We drive past the fields every day. Our local economy is rooted in those fields and I find myself wondering how they are handling this delay. Should we be worried or is all this late planting normal?

I grew up on a farm and it seemed as though there wasn’t ever a perfect growing season that pleased Dad. There was always something at one time or another in the growing season; drought, wind, or pest/fungus problems.

This year corn planting has been delayed by wet soil.

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The best time frame for planting corn is based upon length of growing days, and moisture at the right times in the growing cycle. Around here all the factors point to approximately April 10 to May 10, as the best days to plant but that window of opportunity has already passed.

What happens I wondered if corn is planted later than that?

John Hays at Sunrise Cooperative told me that “usually by this date every bit of 50% of corn has been planted.”

Currently, he said, only 2% of Clark County’s corn is in the ground, and that is not good.

Crop insurance generally covers corn crops that are in the ground by June 5. “After June 5 each day the insurance coverage drops by 1%.” said Hays.

Final day for planting soybeans is June 20.

According to Hays, rain messed up harvesting last fall, which delayed soil preparation that has to be done before planting. Some farmers are still struggling with annual tile repairs, which have to be done before planting. Excessive rain also causes more tile problems.

Wheat was planted last fall and is a luscious green right now, but the wet spring will require spraying to protect the wheat heads from fungus, according to Hays. That spraying will likely be done by helicopter.

It has been a rough spring for livestock farmers also.

“It’s so wet we struggle to get trucks out to check the cows and sometimes the water has been too high to cross the creek,” said Sasha Rittenhouse, who farms with her husband in Pike Township. “The grass is growing, but it’s so wet that the nutritional value of the grass may not be as high as it normally is.”

In addition to caring for the cows in the mud, Rittenhouse said that they worry about having good quality hay for feeding next winter. And of course the late planting has them concerned also.

As she explained, many farmers work two jobs and have difficulty being free to plant during the short time that the conditions are right for sowing.

Conditions have to be near perfect for that late season to come out well. Droughts and heat spells can add to the crisis.

I think it’s a rough year to be a farmer, and a gardener.

Not much we can do about the weather. Nope. Luckily with our modern technology modern farmers can adapt, insure, and work around the issues to a certain extent.

One thing we can do is show some patience if we drive out in the country and get caught behind slow farm equipment. That farmer has a lot on his or her mind. Impatient honking will help no one.

Out here in the country we are known for friendliness and waving at many of the cars we pass, even if we don’t know who it is. I think that a friendly wave and some road courtesy will go a long way.

I also think that a few prayers for a better growing season would be appreciated.

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