Rain, rain, go away

May 2, 2019

Mark Tuttle said the last thing he needs is more rain, since planting season for his 1,000-acre farm in Somonauk has already been delayed.

Since Sunday, DeKalb County has received about 5 inches of rain, according to the National Weather Service. The Sycamore Park District Golf Club, 940 E. State St., and other surrounding park district locales are closed because of flooding. City of DeKalb Public Works crews were out Thursday along Grove Street, Taylor Street and South Fifth Street with pumps to collect overflow water from sewers.

Farmers like Tuttle are growing increasingly worried about the shortening window to plant crops.

“We haven’t planted anything,” Tuttle said Thursday. “We’ve had such a late winter, and snow on the ground just two weeks ago, so we haven’t been able to do much.”

Tuttle’s farm grows corn and soybeans for Del Monte and other domestic use, and to be exported. He said in a normal season, he would have planted by the last week of April.

″[The rain] has delayed our planting which will put us into delay for harvest,” he said. “The later you plant corn, generally you see a 10% to 15% drop in yields.”

Mariam Wassmann, director of information at the DeKalb County Farm Bureau, said the ideal window for seed planting in the region is mid-April through mid-May. Excessive rainfall could even impact seeds that have already been planted.

“As time goes on, [farmers] start to lose yields,” Wassmaan said. “Hopefully if it dries up, the seeds will germinate well, but if they’re sitting in water too long, the seeds start to rot.”

Like Tuttle, DeKalb-based farmer Roger Faivre also is waiting anxiously to get back in the fields. Faivre usually plants 3,000 acres of corn and 1,800 acres of soybeans. His soybeans get sent to agricultural producer Archer Daniels Midland at the river terminal in Ottawa, and some corn gets made into meal or sent to an ethanol plant in Rochelle. Some gets shipped down to the Gulf of Mexico and put on freighters to be exported, Faivre said.

He said his crews were last out on April 26, and have only been able to plant 15% of corn and 24% of their soybeans.

“We just have to wait for things to dry out,” Faivre said. “It won’t get critical until the middle to end of May, then we have to start considering switching to earlier maturing hybrids or varieties. We may end up switching some corn acres into soybeans because you can plant those a little later and not take such a yield hit.”

Faivre said insurance will cover some of the yield loss, depending on the date seeds are planted.

“It’s not a lot of help, but it’s some,” Faivre said. “With the prices where they’re at, farmers can’t afford to take a yield hit.”

Municipal flooding

Rains haven’t just impacted rural flat lands. Park district properties in DeKalb and Sycamore also are experiencing flooding.

In addition to the Sycamore golf club, DeKalb golf courses like River Heights, 1020 Sharon Drive, and Buena Vista, 131 Buena Vista Drive, are closed because of flooding, according to the park district website.

DeKalb Park District Executive Director Amy Doll said properties like the golf courses, which flood every year, are designed to help mitigate floodwater in the area.

“It stinks for golfers, but those parts of our parks and courses take on the flood water,” Doll said. “That’s why we have them. It’s part of our job at the district to help with rainwater.”

She said equipment like the irrigation system at River Heights is stored in a pump house a few feet off the ground in anticipation of flooding.

Doll said the park district also is working with the conservation district and the DeKalb County Community Foundation to develop a plan for the Kishwaukee watershed, a portion of the Rock River that drains into seven different northern Illinois counties.