Ponding of water an issue for crops

Kevin Bunch
Ponding in a farm field occurred alongside a private drive on Conrad Road May 26. Water standing on cropland is drowning plants and may hurt yields at harvest.

ARENAC COUNTY — Ponding caused by heavy rainstorms in May have slowed down planting in some areas and is hurting crops elsewhere.

According to Dennis Stein, farm educator with the Michigan State University Extension, ponding has a negative impact on productivity, as farmers are unable to plant seeds in soil that is underwater or overly soaked. Plants already in the ground have differing tolerances to wet soil, but Stein said none like to be underwater.

“Corn has a high tolerance, but beans usually have a low tolerance to being underwater,” he said. “A well-established cornfield about 4-5 inches tall can last, but a soybean plant doesn’t last really long.”

With the deadlines to plant for crop insurance eligibility fast approaching — June 5 is the deadline for corn, while June 15 is the deadline for soybeans — Stein said there is a danger some crops will go unplanted.

Kevin Noffsinger, president of the Arenac County Farm Bureau, said some farmers are questioning if it is worth planting the rest of the corn crop this late in the year.

“It gets into the question of, is it going to get ripe and mature in the fall,” Noffsinger said. “Yields will be affected also, because you have to switch to a shorter-day variety, which typically does not yield like a longer day variety, so the guys are thinking they may not even finish planting corn if they’ve got any left.”

He said there is still an opportunity for soybeans and farmers can switch to a shorter day yield for those. The yields would not be as great, but Noffsinger said there is still time to get them in the ground.

Additionally, Noffsinger said the ponding is drowning out crops in low-lying areas, leaving holes in the fields and negatively impacting yields.

“Other than that, it needs to warm up a bit,” he said. “Cold weather doesn’t help, as it sets everything back and slows everything down.”

Hay and wheat are able to take advantage of the moisture better than other crops, however, and Stein said the first harvest should be very good if the weather cooperates long enough for farmers to cut them.

“Wheat is soaking up a lot of water. Where water ponds it doesn’t do well … nothing does well when standing in water,” Stein said. “It’s a grassy-type plant, and it’s able to suck it up so most of the rain hasn’t been a problem. The higher ground in wheat fields are very lush. We’re in what’s called the boot stage, and the heads of the wheat should be coming out, which tells us that crop is right on schedule.”

Noffsinger said some of the wheat did not handle the winter months very well, but the plants that made it through are looking “pretty decent” with all the rain.

He added dry bean planting begins at this point in the year, so farmers are not late on those crops yet.

“We just need to hope for the rain to quit here for a couple weeks so we can get everything planted, and it shouldn’t be too bad of a situation,” Noffsinger said.

Stein said one piece of fairly good news for farmers has been the stability in diesel fuel prices, as it is used to run most farm equipment. He said the cost of diesel has remained roughly the same for about nine months, which makes planning easier.


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