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Sunday, Aug. 31, 2014

Farmers wait to see impact of storms on crops

Sunday, June 15, 2003

(Photo)
The prospect of a dry weekend should allow area fields to drain.
SIKESTON - Into every life a little rain must fall, but when it is inches upon inches day after day, Southeast Missouri residents are starting to look for a ray of sunshine. It finally came this weekend, but rain is predicted to return early next week.

Since Tuesday, the dark clouds and often heavy rains have become a constant feature in the Bootheel. The Sikeston Power Station, which serves as an official weather reporting station for the U.S. Weather Service, recorded 2.6 inches on Tuesday, 1.2 inches on Wednesday and another .38 inch on Thursday while the station didn't record any rain Friday, several surrounding communities did.

The rainfall totals in Mississippi County vary. The Mississippi County Extension Service's rain station south of Charleston recorded 4.2 inches Wednesday and Thursday, while 5.5 inches fell in Charleston. A farmer west of Charleston reported 7 inches falling on his fields during the recent storms.

Jeff House, agronomy specialist with the New Madrid County Extension office, summed up the conditions in New Madrid County in three words: "It is bad.

"We've got a lot of crops under water. The water is not getting off because the ditches are full," said House. "No one did anything wrong and there is nothing you can do but hope for the water to go down and see how much was killed off."

According to House, most plants can survive being covered by water for 24 to 36 hours. Forty-eight hours or longer "is death to the crop," he said.

One thing that helped was the cloudy skies, House added. "It is an old-timer's tale that if the sun isn't out while the water is over the plants, it will do less damage. That's true."

Farmers in New Madrid County and elsewhere were already impacted by the cool, wet spring weather, House said. Neither the cotton nor the corn were growing very quickly. Those who planted beans in the bottomlands along the Mississippi River this spring lost their crops to the rising waters then were just getting their crops replanted when the recent downpours came.

Now the deadline for planting has passed for cotton. He described the window for planting beans to be June 15 to June 20. "That's the magic date. They say you lose a bushel a day for every day after June 15 you plant," said House.

Also those farmers who try to replant soybeans where they once had cotton planted will face problems if they used a pre-emerge herbicide. The herbicide often will halt the growth of soybeans, House explained.

Before the rains came last week, the area's wheat crop was turning gold. While one or two fields were harvested prior to the wet weather, most farmers were left to watch it rain.

"Obviously this rain is having an impact on wheat harvest because it is keeping (farmers) out of the fields," said Anthony Ohmes with the Mississippi County Extension Service.

Whether it will cause problems to the crop, he continued, depends on the stage of maturity of the wheat. In some instances, the rain is causing the wheat to lay down in the fields while other farmers are concerned about the possibility of disease or sprouting of ripened wheat.

Rain is good for corn in its growing stages, but not 7 inches, said Ohmes. Those fields with good drainage should suffer minimal impact, but farmers need to be concerned with the rain washing the nitrogen from the soil around the corn. Ohmes suggests farmers have their fields tested once they dry to determine if there is a nitrogen loss.

Mississippi County farmer John Moreton is working to keep the ditches clean and the water flowing off his fields in between tracking the weather.

The rains have kept him from getting into the field to harvest his wheat, he said, and it has also hurt the young beans which were just planted.

As for the impact overall, Moreton said: "We don't know yet. We will just have to wait until good weather returns, everything starts growing again and see what is out there."