Wet autumn delays Minnesota harvest, worries farmers
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A wet autumn has some Minnesota farmers working against the clock as they deal with a delayed harvest amid approaching winter weather.
Harvesting soybeans and other crops in a soggy field can compact the soil, which may stunt the growth of crops in the next growing season, the Minnesota Public Radio reported.
“Compaction doesn’t go away when you pull the combine or the truck out of the field,” said Dave Nicolai, educator at the University of Minnesota Extension.
Compaction is why John Schafer, a farmer near Buffalo Lake, is holding off on harvesting soybeans. He said conditions have improved, but channels are still apparent from when he tried to harvest silage to feed his cattle.
“If you look over here, you can see what I was dealing with a couple days ago,” he said about his field. “It certainly is not ideal to be doing this, but when the cattle need feed, the cattle need feed.”
In its weekly crop progress report for Minnesota, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said Monday that only 7 percent of the state’s corn-for-grain crop has been harvested, which is 22 days behind the average pace. The state’s soybean crop is only 45 percent harvested, compared with a five-year average of 82 percent. Fortunately for farmers, the forecast calls for sunny, relatively warm days through Friday across much of Minnesota.
Farmers said they’re concerned that pushing the harvest too late can run the chance of snow. And even if crops get harvested before winter, farmers said there’s a chance soybeans and corn will be wet, causing mold and fungus to grow.
“It’s going to cost more money, and with low commodity prices, that just adds to the cost of production,” Nicolai said.
Kenny Blumenfeld, a climatologist with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, said the weather trend is toward heavier rains. He said climatologists are researching whether October’s rains are part of a changing pattern fueled by climate change.
“We have seen all the way back through the record in Minnesota episodes of heavy rainfall in October,” he said. “We know we’ve seen things like this in the past, and what we probably need to figure out is, is it actually changing or was this just a bad year.”
Information from: Minnesota Public Radio News, http://www.mprnews.org