Area's crops, yields took beatings this season

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Expert: 'The wheat is gone'

After an extremely wet season and severe flash flooding, Barry County farmers were dealt a heavy hand on this season's crops.

First, hay couldn't be baled because of wet weather conditions and lack of sunshine, which then negatively impacted corn, wheat and soybean planting.

For those who did get hay baled, or baled late, flash flooding washed away hay, destroyed fences and flooded fields with gravel, affecting farmers' yields and bottom lines.

"Hay has just been a challenge all around," said Tim Schnakenberg, regional agronomy specialist who covers six counties, including Barry. "I don't think we can expect high quality hay this year as a whole. A lot of hay was late to be harvested, and as as result, the quality is going to be compromised.

"If hay gets wet in a flood, there's not a lot of salvaging. Some of it got washed down the river and some got saturated. You really can't salvage a lot once it gets flooded. Hopefully, it didn't affect a lot of people. But, those that do have hay on river bottoms, it affected."

Schnakenberg said after the water receded, much of that hay was dirty with silt, which lowers quality.

"On the flip side, with all the moisture we've had lately, some of that regrowth has been really good and there have been some really good second cuttings," he said. "There's good and bad with every situation."

Farmers also took a serious hit on wheat after rain and moisture resulted in a widespread wheat disease called Fusarium scab, also known as head scab, making in unsafe for livestock or human consumption.

"The wheat is gone," Schnakenberg said. "It was a disaster. It's just a bad year for Fusarium scab. You have to be careful what livestock and people you feed that to. That was a real issue, so there wasn't a lot of money to be made for the farmers this year."

Soybean and corn crops held a mixed blessing, Schnakenberg said.

"With the moisture, we had a lot of good growing conditions for the corn and soybeans," he said. "The corn is very rusty however. It's a result of high humidity, overcast skies and frequent rainfall. We did have some farmers that sprayed for fungicide and for those you can see a difference. What's really obvious is the orange color [from the rust] and that's going to impact yield a little bit so that's a concern."

Schnakenberg said soybeans were planted relatively late because of wet conditions, so there's always a risk they will not fully mature before the first frost.

"We hope there will be a later frost this year to help them develop more," he said.

Weed control has been another problem. Schnakenberg said many of the calls he's received lately have been related to cocklebur, ragweed, pigweed and Johnson grasses, due to the excessive rain and moisture.

"Farmers can brush hog them, but then they come right back," he said. "There's been questions about spraying this late in the season, but weed problems in pastures have been really horrendous because of all the moisture. Usually, warm temperatures tend to bring it on. There are challenges every year, just different ones."

Although there has been loss, one bright spot is farmers were able to request assistance through the emergency conservation program after the governor made a disaster declaration. The federal program cost-shares with landowners by reimbursing them for a percentage of expenses for their losses.

"We requested the program and have gone out and made appraisals," said Brian Blount, Barry-Lawrence County executive director the Farm Service Agency, a branch of the USDA. "We're calculating the appraisals and until we get that taken care of and they get the work done, we're not going to get any money."

Blount said it could take up to six months for the process to play out.

"I don't think it will take that long, but they've got that long if they need it."

For those who have livestock, replacing fences cannot wait that long.

"They'll put them in a different field," Blount said. "Some have finished their fences, but have gravel in their field. I think that's taking the most time."

Gerald Hrdina, conservation specialist with the state of Missouri, also said funds were dependent on the work being completed.

"They were approved for the program but have not received funds yet," Hrdina said. "They cannot request funds until the signup period has ended. Then, they request funding from the national office. It's normally takes about 60 days, and they were approved around the first of August.

"We have to go out and inspect the damage before and after to verify that the money has been earned. The bottom line is, the program is dependent on the landowners to get the work done before we can issue any kind of cost-share payments."

Hrdina said replacing fencing, and gravel removal from hay and pasture fields is a primary practice of the cost-share program in flooding situations.

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