2011-06-01 / Front Page

Good crop yields possible despite wet cold weather

BY CAROL SEIFFERLEIN features editor

Paul Pfenninger Paul Pfenninger Farmers could still be looking at good yields, despite wet cool weather through May.

Although planting is later than it has been in years, MSU Field Crop Extension Educator Martin Nagelkirk said, “when it (the soil) dries out, we’ll get back to planting corn...It is abnormally cool, so it is not drying out and it is taking so long to dry out because it is so near saturation”.

Nagelkirk said the county has received four to six inches of rain in May through the 25th.

“That’s a lot of water.”

In spite of that sugar beets are doing pretty well, although the crop is three to four weeks behind last year.

“Overall 95% are planted as of the 26th of May, 96% in Sanilac,” stated Paul Pfenninger, vice-president of agriculture at Michigan Sugar Co.

“The real surprise is the very early beets struggled to emerge, but those planted between the 9th and 13th of May emerged in excellent shape,” he said.

Those persistent rains that prevented further planting also prevented soil crusting. “Some stands are in excellent shape,” Pfenninger noted.

“There is an outside opportunity of getting a decent yield...Two weeks ago I wouldn’t have been so optomistic,” he added.

He said they just have to avoid weather problems during the growing season and at harvest.

Nagelkirk explained there is no hard cut off date for planting cash crops.

“Soybeans can go in well into June, certainly the first half...We don’t start dry beans until June 1 and they are planted all month,” Nagelkirk noted.

“It has been worse. I remember it getting to be July 1 and debating whether we could still plant soybeans,” he recalled.

“With heat, the crop could really get up and going if the weather turns around. It is not disastrous yet. It is likely we will still do well, although the rain is tiresome.”

He estimates about 55-60% of the corn crop is planted and approximately 24% of the soybean crop.

Nagelkirk put the late planting season into perspective.

“The Thumb is still in much better off than other mid-western states...We’re fortunate we have dry beans, wheat and alfalfa to fall back on. Michigan is more diversified,” he said, noting Illinois, Indiana and Iowa have much more invested in corn and soybeans. He said about 60% of the tillable acres in Sanilac County are planted in soybeans and corn.

“I am pleased and surprised 60% of our corn is planted. I’d certainly rather be here than so many other places this year,” Nagelkirk emphasized.

“Planting is later than in years, and that does affect potential yields. It is just the last few years have been such good years for getting it in the ground...A lot of people were counting on a good year. We might get it, but it’s hard to count on it when you’re all wet.”

Seeds that did get planted are slow in emerging.

“We’re waiting for it to come up so it can be evaluated,” he said.

Wheat and alfalfa are doing well, although their growth has also been delayed due to the cool weather.

Nagelkirk thinks farmers are going to be re-evaluating their crop plans because of the delays.

“Guys are just making judgement calls depending on what scenarios are likely for them in the next few weeks. It’s going to be interesting.”

On the plus side, commodity prices for crops are still holding up.

“Corn prices are very strong and overall prices are strong,” Nagelkirk stated.

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