Rain, flooding can cause difficult conditions for farmers

Rains continue to pound Clark, Champaign County farms

Persistent rains have put a damper on some Champaign and Clark County farmers and their prospects of a successful crop season.

Rains fell throughout Monday morning and into the afternoon — a common theme for most days so far this June. Storm Center 7 meteorologists predict the rain to continue throughout most of this week, with showers both Tuesday and Thursday.

The high levels of rain can be a nuisance to everyday residents but it can be catastrophic to farmers, Champaign County farmer Tom Nisonger said.

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“We’re at the mercy of the weather,” he said. “There’s no place for the rain to go. Even an inch of rain is causing ponding. You see all the ponds out in the field. The fields have just been planted.”

He said farmers need the rain to stop soon.

“We have got to get the weather so we can get the corn side-dressed and get the nitrogen on it,” he said. “And if we can’t do that it will reduce the yield.”

Nisonger said he does expect some crops to make it through the continued downpour, but he doesn’t expect his yield to be as big as other years.

“It will be reduced, by how much, we don’t know.”

He said he began farming in Champaign County in 1981 and this has been the most rain he’s seen. Nisonger tries to keep a good attitude about the prospects, but he said there are some farmers around him who have become distraught.

“You have to let things to take its course and hope,” he said. “Farmers, we’re optimists. Wait till next year and it will get better.”

The rain that is causing standing water in fields across Clark and Champaign County can have a devastating impact on farmers who have already planted. It could drown out what they’ve already planted and the rain could produce a haven for bacteria that could disease the crops, said Brian Harbage, a Clark County farmer.

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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, Harbage 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.

However, hydroponic operations like Old Soul’s Farms in Champaign County are unaffected by the heavy rains.

The farm at 9684 Smith Rd in St. Paris is running smoothly, plant manager Nick Kaczkowski said. Plants, like leafy greens and asparagus, are grown indoors and water is applied to the crops using conveyor-belt-like technology.

“We’re able to collect water not only off the roof of our greenhouse but also our pool barns over here and we channel it down through our gutter system into our holding tanks,” he said. “And then from the holding tanks, we pull from them, recirculate it, add nutrients and then into our plants.”

He said the operating system is sophisticated and can handle the heavy rains.

“It doesn’t make a difference if we have too much or too little because we’re able to store it and we’re so efficient with our water it doesn’t’ matter,” Kaczkowski said.

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