Heavy rain and flooding in southern Minnesota last week punctuated a troubling start to the growing season for corn and soybeans in the state. It’s been too wet, and crops are suffering.
“It’s just been a fight all spring and now through the summer. It’s tough to get anything done,” said George Goblish, a farmer outside Vesta, Minn., 2 ½ hours west of the Twin Cities. “Right now I have between 200 and 300 acres under water. And then probably another 5 to 10 percent will be on the borders of the water, which will be short, unhealthy, prone to more disease.”
The share of corn in Minnesota in good or excellent condition dropped from 90 percent on June 10 to 79 percent by July 8, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the share of soybeans in good or excellent condition dropped from 86 percent to 75 percent over the same period.
For farmers, it’s an unwelcome development as they struggle to deal with low commodity prices and the start of a trade war with China that falls heavily on soybean farmers.
The most recent pressing problem has been too much rain, saturated soil and standing water in fields, followed by a 6- to 8-inch deluge on July 3.
Corn and soybeans that are only partly submerged have a better chance of survival than if they are completely submerged, though standing water affects yields even if the tops of the plants are sticking out. Yields can be affected by as much as 30 percent.
“It just seems like it’s been going on and on with rain,” said Liz Stahl, a crop educator at the University of Minnesota Extension in Worthington. “In some places there’s never been water out of there since the snow melted.”
The extreme southern tier of counties — Nobles, Jackson and Martin — had been the wettest until the storm, Stahl said. And the area hit hardest by last week’s storm had been one of the best-off regions in the state.
“They caught up in a fast way, unfortunately,” Stahl said.
The USDA and U Extension don’t have good estimates yet of the number of acres affected by flooding.
Goblish said his crops on the tops and sides of hills are in good shape. Now he’s hoping for regular rain to keep those parts of his fields growing — not a lot, just an inch or so a week through the typically drier months of July and August.
Goblish said he expects federal crop insurance to cover about 70 percent of his lost yields.
“I just know at the end of the year I will not have all my bills paid, because there’s not enough crop and the way the commodity prices are,” he said. “I hope I have a good banker, and I do. He’s understanding, but at the end of the day it still has to cash flow for next year. The farm economy is in really tough shape right now.”
He said his part of Minnesota lost a few farmers last year and he expects more to leave the business after this growing season.