Spring rains coupled with a winter full of snow have farmers scrambling to plant crops, a district extension agent said.
Darren Hibdon, Frontier District extension agent, crop production, said Franklin County farmers are behind on planting, especially with this past week’s rainfall, which left crop land under water in many areas of the county.
“We have had a definite delay in planting,” Hibdon said. “The wet weather has prevented us from getting planting done. At this point in the Ottawa area, we only have about between 5% and 10% of our corn planted. Normally we would like to have that up in the 85-90% range right now. The wet weather has hampered getting that done. It has been a long winter and now spring is wet. We are at a point now, it is time to start planting soybeans and we still have a lot of corn that is not planted.”
Hibdon said farmers normally start planting corn the first of April. He said the wet conditions actually started in late 2018 and has not dried out as of yet, which just added to the myriad of problems.
“We started out last fall very wet and we stayed wet all winter long,” Hibdon said. “That prevented getting fertilizer applications put on in the fall and winter. It has delayed our spring spraying for weed control. It has all added up and backed things up.”
Hibdon said it is not too late to plant corn, but it is running into the soybean planting season, which runs from the first of May to the middle of June.
“We will definitely try to plant more corn once the weather straightens up,” he said. “Probably will be a few acres that will get converted to soybeans that were intentionally planted for corn because of the delay. There still is time to plant quite a bit of corn.”
Hibdon said the quick and hard rain of this past week caused soil erosion.
“The rain has come very hard so we have seen a lot of dirt movement,” Hibdon said. “Even some of those crops that may have been planted in the last week, we are probably looking at some replanting with as much soil was moved. We are seeing a lot of water standing in fields.”
Hibdon’s advice to farmers is simple: don’t panic and try to do things too fast.
“They have to be patient to get things done right,” he said. “When those windows open up we got to take the opportunity to get things planted and get done in timely manner. More importantly, we have to be careful to not try to push things, maybe plant when it is too wet. That causes different production-type problems.”
Hibdon said looking ahead, this may be a cooler and wetter summer than normal.
“It looks like the long-range forecast, we have been told we will have a little cooler than normal summer and above normal precipitation,” Hibdon said. “It looks like we are in a pattern.”
Hibdon said in a perfect world, crops in this area need rain about every 10 days during the growing season.
“Our crops need to be rain fed,” he said. “With our soils, we don’t have the capability to store up a lot of moisture and utilize it through the growing season like some parts of the state. We need rain on a regular basis. I hope we are not getting it all early.”
Hibdon said the wheat crop in Franklin County will be smaller than normal this year.
“We have a very small amount of wheat planted here this year,” Hibdon said. “That is because we got wet last fall. We are down in the number of wheat acres that we have planted. The wheat that is planted looks extremely variable. Wheat is not a crop that likes large amounts of moisture. It is a more of a dry weather type crop. These cool conditions are not helpful with wheat as well.”
Livestock also are not fond of the inconsistent weather pattern, Hibdon said.
“The change in weather conditions, the warm one day and cool the next, is hard on livestock,” he said. “It is very stressful to livestock. We still have producers trying to finish up calving. We are at a time right now where many are trying to get cattle moved to grass. Mud is hampering that as well.”
One thing that the cool and wet conditions have helped is the growing of hay.
“Our grass is off to a fairly decent start,” Hibdon said. “However some sunshine and growing condition days would make a big difference in it as well. I would hope we would have a fair hay year. There is time for that to be determined. There was a hay shortage as we went through the winter. It was used up. It was a long and wet winter. We are in need of a good hay year, not only throughout Franklin County, but pretty much all of the midwest.”
Hibdon said the forecast statewide for crops is pretty good.
“It is definitely the opposite as we get to the west,” Hibdon said. “West of here has been very dry in the latter month or so. It would appear that wheat is off to a good start in south-central Kansas. Things may be looking promising there. Kansas wheat tour is this week and more reports will coming out.”