Rainy weather severely hampers county crops

Michael Conroy/Associated Press
In this Sept. 21, 2018, file photo, Mike Starkey offloads soybeans from his combine as he harvests his crops in Brownsburg.

By ALLEN LAMAN
alaman@dcherald.com

Heavy rains have saturated local farm fields in recent months, and as of now, growing crops are next to non-existent in Dubois County.

Ken Eck, educator for Purdue Extension-Dubois County, estimated that just 1% of the county’s corn crop has been planted. He doesn’t know of any soybeans that have gone in the ground.

Many area farmers have been through this before. But that doesn’t mean they’re not nervous of what continued wet and cold weather could mean for their harvests.

“We definitely are still in the window to have the full potential yield we could have for the county down here,” Eck said. “But, we need to get in the ground as soon as possible, and have the conditions change to nice, warm, dry, wind-blowing, dry-out-the-soil kind of conditions. So we can get as much of a corn yield and soybean yield as we can in the county.”

According to information from the Southern Indiana Purdue Agriculture Center farm, which is located immediately north of the Patoka Lake dam, April rains totaled an unseasonable 7.2 inches at the site. That was more than an inch-and-a-half higher than the area’s 18-year average.

Statewide planting numbers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture show that just 6% of the state’s corn had been planted as of Sunday. The five-year average of corn planted by that date is 57%. Only 2% of soybeans were in the ground — the five-year average for that crop at the same time is 26%.

Corn and soybeans are typically planted between mid-April through May, but due to the near-constant barrage of rainfall and recent chilly temperatures, the fields they’d spurt from now sit consumed by water, their soil too muddy and cold for planting.

“I have a challenging time sometimes even trying to take my dog out and walk across pastures and some of the fields next to my house,” Eck said of his fieldwork. “So, if I can’t walk across it, some of the heavier, larger machinery we have nowadays definitely would be challenged in some places and some of the fields in our county.”

Alan Small has about 500 acres designated for corn and soybean growth on his farm, which is located south of Ireland. He has yet to drop a single seed into the earth.

About 90 percent of the planting fields on his property are completely underwater.

“We just need to get dry weather, dry ground,” he said. “Cold weather don’t hurt — it always warms up. But when it’s too wet, you can’t plant. That’s all there is to it.”

Eck said that if farmers are able to plant in the coming weeks, it’s still “very possible” that they could have a good year. Planting date is but one of many yield-influencing factors, according to R.L. Nielsen, a Purdue Extension corn specialist and professor of agronomy.

But until the weather shifts, fields in Dubois County will sit empty.

The National Weather Service is predicting a small chance of rain tonight through Wednesday night in Jasper. Clearing skies accompanied by chances for showers and highs in the 80s are expected later this week.

When asked if he hopes he can harvest as much as he did last year, Small said: “I don’t think that’ll be possible. But you never know.”




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