Wet weather delays local crops

Ken Hartmann Jr. talks to employee Jonah Mathews as he refills a planter used for corn on Hartman’s Glendell Farms property on the south edge of Waterloo. 

Farming is a gamble without having to go to a casino or gaming room.  

It’s an educated gamble – farmers are smart.  But it is also a string of bets.

In the case of field crops, they must decide what, when and where to plant – and do it without certainty about what the payoff will be. And all the while, they must look over their shoulders at the weather. 

All those questions are now focused on getting corn planted.

As most are aware, it has rained often and heavily almost all spring. The National Weather Service reports that the St. Louis region has received 22.46 inches of rain this year (not counting Tuesday night’s storm), versus the average for the same time of 14 inches. 

That is on top of 24.2 inches of snow this past winter compared to an average for the winter of 17.7 inches.

People driving across Monroe County should be aware that many fields remain unplowed and certainly unplanted.

Kenneth Hartman Jr., whose family farm is just south of Waterloo, gave up Republic-Times some of his busy Friday to talk about corn planting in particular, as he and employees pushed hard to get that crop planted.  

“Normally we should be done planting corn by April and be into putting beans in the fields now,” he said.  

But fields have remained too muddy to work in.  

“Corn planted after about May 20 is likely to provide lower yields,” he added.

The late planting drives late harvesting, too.

“Corn planted in April would normally start tasseling in June,” he said.  “Now we hope for that in July.”  

Tassels are the male, pollen-bearing corn flowers that pollenate the female corn silks.

“As we plow and plant, we have to work around areas that are still too wet,” Hartman said. “And the additional rain we have had means many springs that would normally be dryer by now are still flowing vigorously.”

To add pressure to his team’s work, Hartman said,  more rain is on  the way. 

Hartman said some area farmers are already moving from planting corn to beans.

Gateway FS Grain Manager Adam Parker said the problem is not just local.  

“We are in the midst of the fourth slowest corn planting season in U.S. history,” Parker said. 

Focusing on Illinois alone, Parker said we should normally see about 82 percent of the state’s corn already planted. 

“But as of the last figures available, we’re at about 11 percent,” he acknowledged.  “And the trade issue is hovering over this all as well.”

Ken and his daughter Alexis were recently featured in an NBC News video focused on the impact of America’s trade war with China. The Hartmans spoke about the effects of the trade war on farmers.

A Farm Bureau update on Monday showed corn planting in Illinois is up to 24 percent, but more rain this week will add to the delay.

Flooding, while it is going down somewhat in the bottoms, has impacted planting there as well.  More precipitation is occurring north and west of here, and will also have to pass down the region’s rivers. Some farmers have been able to plant small amounts of corn on sand ridges, but many bottom fields remain under water.

Agriculture, including the primary field crops of wheat, corn and beans, is the core of Monroe County’s economy.  Whether we farm or not, farming money is spent and re-spent many times as it flows through our local businesses.

If we have several consecutive dry days, farmers are likely to be pushing to get their crops into the fields. This means large machines will be encountered more often on rural roads across Monroe County.

Drivers are cautioned not to take unnecessary chances around them. In most cases they will try to operate to allow you to pass, but good judgment is necessary at all times.  

Don’t gamble with your, or their, safety.

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