Weather woes continue as harvest nears for Minnesota farmers

Published 5:32 pm Monday, September 30, 2019

By Dan Gunderson

MPR News/90.1

This year may end the way it started for many Minnesota farmers, with weather keeping them out of the fields.

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After weeks of heavy rain and flooding, crops were planted late this spring — increasing the risk that corn will be killed by an early frost before it matures.

And now muddy fields are delaying the soybean harvest.

“Everybody is just kind of ready for a slower harvest, but hopefully we will have decent weather. We could use some non-rainy days that help things dry up,” said University of Minnesota Extension crop expert Liz Stahl.

Stahl said it’s been a year when farmers can’t catch a weather break.

“They’re predicting rain this weekend, some areas (getting) several inches of rain, and this is a tough time of year to be getting a lot of moisture. People want to be getting into the field, of course that’s going to be keeping people out,” she said.

The most recent crop report, from Sept. 22, showed only 8 percent of corn in Minnesota is mature, compared with 63 percent at this time last year.

Stahl said a big concern is that the late-planted corn will be killed by an early frost before the crop matures.

And it’s likely that farmers will need to spend a lot of money for propane to dry wet corn before it can be safely sold or stored.

Stahl said she’s worried a tough harvest will double down on an already stressful year for farmers, with low yields caused by the wet conditions and late planting.

“I do not anticipate bin-buster yields at all this year; it’s going to be below trend (average),” she said. “You’re dealing with low commodity prices; this has certainly been a year we don’t want to have to repeat. There’s just so many stresses going on this year. I mean, you can do everything right but you can’t control the weather.”

She encouraged farmers to take advantage of available mental health resources.

The most-recent USDA crop report showed no areas are short of moisture in Minnesota, with topsoil moisture adequate in 55 percent of the state and surplus moisture in 43 percent of fields.