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Published July 01, 2013, 09:51 AM

Too much of a good thing

Wet conditions are causing problems for farmers, including flooded fields and delayed crop progress.

By: Mikkel Pates, Agweek

Wet conditions continue to delay crop progress in Minnesota, the Dakotas and Montana.

Minnesota reported topsoil moisture supplies at 63 percent adequate and 36 percent surplus as of June 24, and that was before deluges brought up to 9 inches of rainfall to towns such as Wolverton. Corn emergence was behind the average of 100 percent and corn height was only 10 inches, compared with 32 inches last year and an average of 21 inches. Corn condition had improved to 59 percent good to excellent.

Soybeans were 81 percent emerged, compared with 100 percent the previous year. Soybean conditions were only 58 percent good to excellent.

Some long-time farmers who talked to Agweek’s CropStop correspondent recently say they haven’t seen wet weather like this in some time, making it more fit for ducks and geese than for crops.

‘A real mess’

SABIN, Minn. — Mark Carr, 60, has farmed eight miles east of Sabin all his life and has seldom seen rain like this.

“All together I’ve calculated 8 inches since it started raining,” he says. “It’s a real mess now. There’ll be a lot of loss.” Hail storms had zeroed out some fields within 10 miles of the farm because plants had been small, but now the excess water is killing what’s left.

Carr just raises hay these days. He retired from major cropping operations about four years ago.

“I rent the rest out — sugar beets, beans, wheat and corn,” he says. “But a guy still likes to see nice crops.” At one time, he and a brother, Keith, had 1,200 acres, including potatoes, along with 120 head of cattle.

Sabin picked up 1.2 inches just before a CropStop visit on June 21. He figured 10 percent had been drowned then, but now thinks 40 percent of the crops are drowned.

The first cutting of hay this year was “a nice crop, but not real big — a little disappointing,” Carr says. “I think it was too cool for the hay.”

He sells hay locally through word-of-mouth to steady customers. “I could have sold 1,000 bales more last year if I’d had them,” he says.

He does mostly large round bales, but some small square bales for his own use. He has 80 acres of alfalfa and 150 acres of grass. He’d gotten some of the alfalfa up, but most won’t be dairy quality anymore.

“It’ll be all bloomed out and then you lose quality,” he says. “Some of the alfalfa will be lost because it’ll be drowned out.”

Carr lives on a farmstead where his daughter and family live in a separate home. The Carrs are involved in lots of team roping in Hawley, Minn., and the grandkids do a lot with the 4-H Western Heritage project, rodeo and other activities.

“The kids have fun and Clay County has been the top in the state for ‘western heritage’ for the last three years,” he says.

‘Pretty good now’

DALTON, Minn. — Rodney Moebius has farmed about 5.5 miles south of Dalton, Minn., all his life except for a time in the military. He now farms with his wife Mary. He’s sold corn seed for 40 years. For the past 12 years, he’s sold LG Seeds, now one of the companies of Agriliance LLC.

Moebius, 75, used to have 500 head of cattle and farmed 2,600 acres. He now farms about 300 acres and either rents out or has a half-section in the Conservation Reserve Program.

This year, his corn was planted “a little wet” in the first week of May. “On Memorial Day weekend, I put in the beans, but we were wet,” he says, giving a farm tour. “See how it’s flooded in the fields after this rain, now? We have plenty of rain for awhile.”

The culverts have been running well, but are overwhelmed.

All of this is ironic because last year was dry. “Our crops weren’t that bad but it sure turned dry last fall. I had 12,000 trees in — filter strips and that,” Moebius says. “I lost a lot of them.”

Moebius says Elbow Lake Cooperative sprayed the corn on June 12 and his beans on June 26. His farm missed the big, heavy rains.

Corn that was planted May 10 was standing 12 to 14 inches tall on June 21 and came up 6 inches in about a week. “It usually straightens out, unless it breaks, and it didn’t break.”

Moebius says he’s mostly retired, but still active. This spring, he bought a new, 45-foot-wide LandRoller, a brand of the implements that knock down corn stalks and push rocks into the ground for planting soybeans. “I still buy stuff,” he says. “My wife gives me heck.”

He’s been cutting and milling lumber since he was 14 years old and uses a mill that he built himself in 1982 from parts fashioned from old tractor frames and some pieces of metal dating back to the Civil War. When he isn’t raising corn and beans, he’s sawing farm logs into lumber that his son Donald has been using to refurbish a dairy barn into a hunting lodge.

He says he had a cancerous brain tumor six years ago and has made a pretty good recovery.

“I could just quit, see, but I’ve got to have something to putter with,” he says. “We’re pretty fortunate. Things look pretty good now.”

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