Floods cause havoc for farms at critical stage for crops
Thousands of acres of Wisconsin crops have been damaged or destroyed by heavy rain, flooding, hail and high wind this summer.
In some of the hardest hit areas, rivers overflowed their banks and wiped out newly planted fields.
Farmland along the Kickapoo River, in Crawford County, was badly flooded.
“Wet, wet and more wet!! More storms seem to keep rolling through,” this week’s crops report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture said about Green County.
“It was a tough spring and now it’s a tough summer,” the report said.
Some rural areas have gotten up to 9 inches of rain in a couple of days, when an inch would have been plenty.
Crops stuck in pools of stagnant water become susceptible to root rot and disease. The water also strips them of valuable nitrogen.
Nearly every acre of corn and soybeans in Lafayette and Grant counties has been affected to some degree, according to University of Wisconsin Extension agents.
Too late to replant
“Summer is starting to run out. We are past the halfway point,” said Ross Bishop, a Washington County farmer.
Still, the corn is 7 feet tall in many fields and, statewide, it’s in pretty good shape, the crops report said.
“We were surprised that more corn, wheat and oats weren’t knocked down in the last storm,” the report said about St. Croix County.
But the ginseng crop in Lincoln and Marathon counties is at risk, with farmers planning an early harvest so they can avoid root rot.
Dave Adams, who farms near Lake Geneva, said he couldn’t plant about 90 acres of corn and soybeans this year because it was too wet.
“I will probably lose another 20 to 30 acres from flooding,” Adams said.
He’s hoping that his crops planted on higher ground will make up for what’s lost.
“I am pretty lucky. It could be worse,” Adams said.
Ironically, farmers now worry that a prolonged dry spell could cause even more crop damage.
An inch or two of rain a week, not a day, would be helpful between now and the fall harvest.
“We would like to see things settle down into a nice regular pattern of rainfall. If that happens, we could see good crop yields,” said Ted Bay, a UW Extension crops and farm management agent for Grant and Lafayette counties.
This is a “very critical time” for corn and soybeans now, and they need just the right amount of moisture, Bay said.
Much of the Upper Midwest has been pounded with rain, while the West has been stuck in a drought that’s damaged crops there.
Many farmers will likely turn to crop insurance to cover some of their losses.
It’s meant to prevent a “total loss of income,” Bay said, but it’s not a substitute for a strong harvest.
Wisconsin corn and soybeans were planted late this year, making them even more vulnerable to poor weather.
Some farmers replanted a couple of times.
What normally would have been two weeks of planting took six weeks, said Jim Zimmerman, a farmer near Rosendale.
A lot of crop damage won’t be assessed until the fall harvest, and the USDA typically reserves its “state of disaster” judgment until then.
Crop yields aren’t likely to match 2015 and 2016, two excellent years, but there’s still time for crops to post a decent season.
“I am a little more optimistic than I was a couple of weeks ago. … What we need now is an extended fall and for everything else to go right,” Zimmerman said.