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Published August 04, 2014, 09:56 AM

Mother Nature can’t meet all of farmers’ preferences

Colgate, N.D., farmer Jason Mewes wants August to be filled with temperatures in the mid 80s and “an inch of rain at least every 10 days.” The heat and moisture would benefit his still-developing corn, soybeans and dry edible beans.

By: Jonathan Knutson, Agweek

Colgate, N.D., farmer Jason Mewes wants August to be filled with temperatures in the mid 80s and “an inch of rain at least every 10 days.” The heat and moisture would benefit his still-developing corn, soybeans and dry edible beans.

In contrast, Mark Rude, extension agent in Montana’s Sheridan County, says farmers there generally would fare best with a dry August and temperatures no higher than the low 80s. The fast-maturing small grains common in his county don’t need more moisture, and too much heat would hamper the final stages of their growth.

Farmers across the Upper Midwest have a mixed and often conflicting weather wish list this August. Conditions that would help some crops would hurt others. For farmers who grow both small grains and row crops such as corn and soybeans, there’s no such thing as ideal August weather.

Mewes is raising a relatively small amount of wheat, and weather conditions that would favor his other crops would work against his wheat.

Likewise, some farmers in Sheridan County are experimenting with crops such as corn and soybeans, and too little rain and heat would hurt them, Rude says.

Small grains and row crops “are on opposite sides, as far as the weather,” says Howard Person, extension agent in Minnesota’s Pennington County, where farmers raise both small grains and row crops.

What’s best overall?

On balance, temperatures in the low 80s probably would be best for the region’s crop overall, especially in areas where small grains are common, experts say. The low 80s would minimize damage to wheat, while still boosting row-crop development.

Reconciling moisture needs is more difficult. Dry weather would boost the harvest of small grains, but hurt row crops. Wet weather would help row crops, but hamper small-grain harvest, officials say.

Farmers will want it dry if they’re harvesting small grains. If they’re not, they’ll be rooting for rain for their row crops.

Laura Edwards, South Dakota State University Extension climate field specialist, says she’s familiar with farmers’ conflicting weather needs.

“I get a lot of different requests (for the weather that farmers want),” she says.

This August is expected to be relatively cool and dry, she notes.

Strength in numbers

Growing different crops complicates heat and moisture needs, but diversification has value, Person says.

Diversification spreads out harvest and reduces risk that unfavorable weather will damage the entire crop, he says.

Growing multiple crops has other benefits, too, including improved management of wheat and disease.

“It’s just good all around,” he says.

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