Crops not weathering rains well
Written by Sentinel-Tribune Staff
Friday, 12 July 2013 09:26
Recent weather has not been kind to area farmers.
|Part of a damaged corn field is seen along U.S. 6 near Bradner. (Photos: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)
Rain nearly every day with high winds have wreaked havoc with crops, especially wheat.
Four weeks ago, conditions looked right for a bumper wheat crop. The fields looked great. Not anymore. And the longer it takes for the fields to dry up enough to harvest, the worse things will become.
Wednesday's wind leveled the corn in some area fields; and the wet fields are making it challenging for all three of the primary crops raised in the county.
Josh Kieffer, agronomist for Luckey Farmers, Scott Barnhisel, vice president of grain division for Mid-Wood Inc., and Jonathan Haines, executive director of the Bowling Green office of the Farm Service Agency, were all pretty much in agreement in their assessments for the wheat harvest.
"There has been a lot of possible crop damage. Some areas have been hit by hail twice, and the winds have damaged corn, beans and wheat," Barnhisel said.
He used the word "possible" because nothing is for certain until the crops are harvested. He also noted much of the wind damage, and even the rainfall has been localized.
"Four weeks ago, everything was looking good," Barnhisel said.
"We were looking at really good yields, possibly 80 to 90 bushels per acre," Kieffer said of the wheat crop.
Then those daily rains came and changed everything.
"With the heavy rains, there will be a decent yield reduction, he added, "It's anybody's guess. I imagine it may be drop to a 50-70 bushel rate now."
Haines estimated a 15 to 20 bushel per acre drop with a possible one-third crop loss.
"We were looking at great potential until the rain hit as the wheat was dang close to ripe," Haines said.
"Once the wheat is ripe, that is the best time to harvest before it swells up and loses its test weight," he added.
After the wheat has matured the plant loses its ability to hold the grain. The hail, wind and rain is sending the fruit of the wheat heads to the ground.
"The berries are actually laying on the ground," Barnhisel said.
|A wheat field is seen along South River Road just east of Wayne Road.
The longer it takes for the farmers to get into the fields to harvest, the more money that will be lost from the crop.
"The wheat has definitely lost a lot of test weight," Kieffer said noting sprouting in the heads.
"It has definitely affected the quality of the wheat," Barnhisel said. He added they don't know the full extent because they haven't received any of the harvested grain at the elevators yet.
Luckey Farmers did receive just a couple of loads before the rains stopped the harvest.
The Mid-Wood executive said he has heard of varying rainfall amounts ranging from 5-6 inches up to 13-15 inches in the last two weeks.
"It's had an impact, for sure," Barnhisel added.
Because of the rains there is a lot of moisture in the wheat and those numbers will likely remain elevated when harvested. The high moisture content also results in a loss to growers as they get a lower price because of the need for drying.
"The longer it sits in the field, the greater the loss," the Luckey Farmers agronomist said as the wheat becomes more vulnerable for mold and vomitoxin, a type of fungus which affects grain crops.
Haines said when it sits it also starts getting darker because of the mold starting to set in.
When harvest does resume, Haines said the farmers will be "mudding it out."
Kieffer expects it will be at least another four or five days without rainfall before the harvest can begin in most areas.
"The quality of the wheat is not going to be anything great at all if it goes too long," he said.
Barnhisel explained that the best quality wheat, the "millers grade" for them is generally sent to Nabisco. That draws a higher price than the feed grade that is used for livestock feed or similar lower quality products which draws a far lesser price.
Of the three primary crops harvested in Wood County, any loss to the soybeans might not show for some time.
"Soybeans don't like wet feet," Barnhisel said of the plant's reaction to the wet soils.
He also said because of the delays in the wheat harvest, fewer farmers will be able to "double crop" soybeans. Often farmers can make a second planting of beans into the harvested wheat fields.
Haines said from what he has heard, the soybean crop is "all over the board" depending on the area with some of the crop yellowing and/or standing in water.
"A lot of the soybeans are damaged," he added.
Haines also spoke about the corn noting it was "faring the best because of its stage of growth when the rains hit."
However, he said Wednesday's storms including the wind damage can be harmful to the yield.
Some fields handled it better depending on the moisture in the soil at the time. The corn that did "lay over" Haines said "will likely come back up."
He also noted the possibility of the stalks "goose-necking" or the tops returning to an upright position with part of the stalk remaining bent.
"As long as it didn't snap off, it shouldn't hurt yield that much," Haines said.
He also noted one farmer in the southern part of the county lost his entire crop of cucumbers and peppers.
Barnhisel tried to be optimistic. First he noted there is still "potential for good harvests" and , he added, despite the challenges faced by area growers, most of the crops are not as bad as they are in some other areas.
"We haven't been hit as hard as some. We're not seeing the worst. Because the plant looked so good. I wouldn't trade my crops for what I've seen in other places," he said.
Haines summed it up: "It's too early to tell. If we can get dryer and warmer weather, we can minimize the already sufficient damage."