MU Extension offers online flood resources for crop farmers
COLUMBIA, Mo. – University of Missouri Extension agronomists and economists have created a one-stop shop of online resources for crop farmers coping with flooding and persistent rains.
Weeks of flooding and heavy rains have prevented planting of crops and harvesting of forages, says MU Extension forage specialist Craig Roberts. “Extension specialists created this site to help farmers facing a crop crisis.”
Roberts says MU Extension specialists will update the site with new resources as the growing season changes. The site includes responses from agronomy and business specialists to questions from farmers on issues affecting crops and forages.
Weather is just one issue fueling the crop crisis, says Roberts. “Weather, low prices, trade disputes and tariffs brought slow devastation to Missouri agriculture,” he says. “The crisis began with regional flooding and then spread throughout the state. Weather, compounded by these issues, spelled disaster for rural farming communities. These issues will have a ripple effect through the state’s overall economy.”
May rainfall highest on record
MU Extension climatologist Pat Guinan reports that Missouri received about 200% of normal May rainfall. It was not only the amount of rain, Guinan said, but also the longevity of the wetness. This wet pattern began evolving last fall and has persisted into spring. Preliminary data shows May 2019 was Missouri’s wettest May in records that go back to 1895.
Much of Missouri’s corn went unplanted; soybean planting lags
Heavy rains saturated soils and kept farmers from planting corn and applying nutrients. Late-planted corn can mean pollination at the hottest part of the summer, weed control problems and extended fall drying times leading to higher costs. Farmers who made split applications of nitrogen also may have been unable to apply spring fertilizer. For most, the recommended date to plant corn has passed. As of June 9, more than 14 million acres of corn are unplanted in the Midwest, says MU Extension soybean specialist Bill Wiebold.
The Missouri Crop Progress Report says only 81% of the state’s corn seed was in the ground as of June 9. The five-year average for this time of year is 98%.
Soybean numbers also lag far behind. The Missouri Crop Progress Report says only 37% of the state’s soybean had been planted as of the week ending June 9, with emergence at 20%. The five-year average is 73% planted.
Weed problems, seed banks likely
Bare, flooded fields are ripe for weeds. “The worst thing we can do is let fields grow up in weeds,” says MU Extension weed scientist Kevin Bradley. In a series of articles on the crop crisis website, Bradley gives tips for burndown of big weeds in soybean, tells how to kill out failed corn stands and discusses herbicide issues.
Forage producers fight wet conditions
For forage producers, the crisis began in 2018, says Roberts. Drought-like conditions created forage shortages that left livestock producers scrambling for winter feed. Frequent spring rains gave producers little time to cut, dry and bale forages before they lost nutritional value and palatability.
In parts of northwestern Missouri, floodwaters destroyed surplus grain in bins. Farmers there wait for land to dry while they try to decide what crops to plant. The farmers also face long-term challenges with renovating bottomlands where floodwaters left river sand, silt and debris, Wiebold says. Many of those acres likely will go unplanted this year.
Livestock specialist Jim Humphrey reported that there have been three serious accidents in recent weeks while farmers moved equipment. Heavy rains kept areas next to roadways and intersections from being mowed as usual. Weeds and heavy rains reduced visibility as farmers moved equipment on rural roadways. Crumbling roadway shoulders, weakened by snow and ice in winter and pounding rains in spring, also create problems for farmers transporting equipment.
Free interactive tools for farmers
For most of Missouri, the final planting date under crop insurance is June 5 for corn and June 15 for soybean. At this late date, one of the few options for farmers battling wet fields may be prevented planting payments through USDA’s Risk Management Agency, says MU Extension economist Ray Massey.
The MU Extension crop crisis website offers articles and interactive tools to help farmers make risk management decisions. The free tools use data entered by the user to compare scenarios for crop insurance payments and other issues.
“Data from decades of extension research take the emotion out of tough decisions farmers face,” Wiebold says.
The site also offers valuable information on planting dates and yields, replant decisions, nutrient and weed management, and more, he says.
Go to the website at extension2.missouri.edu/programs/flood-resources/crops-and-soils-flood-resources or call your local MU Extension agronomist or agricultural business specialist.