This farmer took advantage of the nice weather on June 19 in Houston County to plant some corn before the three days of rain and flooding, June 21-23.
This farmer took advantage of the nice weather on June 19 in Houston County to plant some corn before the three days of rain and flooding, June 21-23.
Editor's note: this article was written previous to the torrential rains of June 21-23.

Continual wet conditions this spring have been costly for farmers in Houston and Fillmore counties. Some fields were planted late, and others may not be sown at all.

According to the National Weather Service, Spring Grove had 7.83 inches of rain in May, and things only got worse from there. Caledonia logged 8.76 inches of precipitation while Dorchester, Iowa had 9.27 inches. To the west, Spring Valley had 12.26 inches of rainfall.

Late-planted corn typically exhibits lower yields, University of Minnesota Extension Educator Jerrold Tesmer noted last week. This year, area farmers are a full three weeks behind in their corn planting due to weather delays, he added.

"Once you get past mid-May, you start losing about a half bushel (per acre) a day," Tesmer said, "so by mid-June you've given up 15 or so bushels of corn off the potential top end.

"I saw a study done in 1993 where some corn didn't get in until towards the end of June. They figured it was 45 bushels per acre less. That's pretty extreme, but I think a lot of it has to do with the weather you have in July, August and September.

"I had a guy come in who had 20 acres of corn left to plant to some low-lying ground that just wouldn't dry up. He decided to give up on that and get to planting the beans, because they had one tractor with GPS that they wanted to use for corn planting, bean planting and spraying. They had to get the beans out of the way before they could begin spraying.

"It's kind of a case where the other jobs were pushing the decision to get rid of the corn quicker than the fact that you couldn't plant corn anymore. They had other work that needed to be done, too."

Continual rain also impacts haying, which eventually vies for time with planting.

"In Houston County, some of the dairy guys had to get hay cut. Some of them got some hay up a week or so ago, and some of them needed to get some hay up because they didn't have any feed left. They're probably working under conditions that are a lot less than ideal just to get some hay to feed their cattle."

The western end of Fillmore County was hardest-hit, Tesmer said. That's not only due to the amount of rainfall, but differing soil types and topography.

"Where the eastern end of the county took about a day and a half to dry out after each rain, you'd see about a half-day of planting before the next series of rains began. On the west end it was taking three to four days to dry out, and they never turned a wheel."

Similar years have shown a big difference from farm to farm as far as planting, Tesmer stated.

"I was filling out reports one year which asked for the average height of corn, and on one end of the county it was 12 inches tall while on the other end it hadn't even been put in the ground yet."

For some producers, switching a field from corn to beans is an option, since soybeans can be planted later. For others, that's not possible.

"Some farmers are locked in with their rotations," Tesmer noted, "I don't know if they can make the switch or not. Either they've got a conservation plan that says they can't do it or the herbicide or fertilizer applied kind of says they can't.

"Soybeans are photo-sensitive. They're based on when the sunlight starts to get less so on towards fall they all flower and put their seeds out anyway. It's just that they probably won't have a full-sized plant there to bear the seed if they're planted too late.

"On soybeans, some say a two-week delay in the spring means a one week delay in the fall. The crop might not catch up 100 percent, but there is some adjustment.

"This year's just been so different. I've been getting calls from a couple of guys asking what cover crops to plant where they weren't able to plant corn. The problem is, for so many of these things I don't know if we've got really good answers.

"We've got some ideas, but I'm not sure which ones are going to pan out the best by fall. It's getting into uncharted territory, just like it has for the last several weeks.

"There's just no silver bullet out there where we do this, and we've got all our problems solved. Some guys that usually get four cuttings of hay are taking three; some who usually take five are taking four.

"We're probably going to be a little short on hay come next fall, but if we continue to get sunshine and rain maybe we'll get a huge crop all summer long.

"The weather has been a big factor so far, and it's going to be a big factor for the next three months, too."