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Saturday, Dec. 20, 2014

Precipitation means moredelays for area farmers

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

SIKESTON -- Monday's added precipitation to already saturated grounds in southeast Missouri will mean more delays for farmers and gardeners.

The National Weather Service issued a flood watch for area counties beginning Monday afternoon. Heavy, widespread rainfall hit the area late Sunday and early Monday, and the precipitation is predicted to last until later today, said Mary Lamm, hydrologist. A total of about three inches of precipitation was expected to fall in the Sikeston area over the course of the system, she said.

"This is holding us up," Jeff House, agronomy specialist at the New Madrid County Extension office said of the above normal amounts of precipitation. "In the years' past, we've already been rolling (in the fields) quite a bit by now."

He said that some areas on light ground near Portageville would have been ready for preparation by this weekend. "But you can forget it now," said House.

He pointed out the approaching planting seasons. Within 30 days, corn planting season should be in full swing, and soybean and cotton sowing will begin in 45 and 50 days respectively.

"It's time to get ready," House said.

Anthony Ohmes, agronomy specialist at the Mississippi County Extension office, said he also has farmers concerned about preparations. "I've had several say to me 'we'll probably be ripping (preparing the field) and planting at the same time this year," he said.

But there is a nice-sized window for corn planting that spans through April, so he isn't too concerned about that crop yet -- although added precipitation may hurt. "It may not be the most ideal situation," Ohmes said. "But two months of time is still plenty of time to get a lot of stuff done."

What he's concerned with is the wheat crop.

"Wheat in general does not like what we call 'wet feet' -- it likes well-drained soils," he said. Any plant's root system doesn't tolerate a lot of water and the lack of oxygen stresses the plant.

"In general, the plants are going to be stressed," said Ohmes.

He's also concerned about whether machinery will be able to get across the field in a couple of weeks when fertilization needs to be done.

The precipitation, in addition to any potential melting or soaked soils, add a flood threat.

House said that "patience is key" for farmers ready to get in the fields. However, to speed up drainage, they should make sure ditches are running.

"If they see any of the main drainage ditches that look like they're getting stopped up, they should try to contact the city or state responsible for it," said House. "But we rarely have problems with that anymore."

Ohmes said that while the precipitation isn't ideal for many, it can indicate drainage problems to farmers.

"This type of weather is a good litmus test to see which fields need some drainage work," he said. "This is a good time to be looking for problem fields and perhaps improving those fields if you have money to improve things at the end of the year."

House said telling people to be patient sometimes sounds like "adding insult to injury."

"But that's all we can do -- other than just sit and pray," he said. He said, however, that if the precipitation lets up soon, it won't be too critical.

"A lot of farmers already have their ground in shape from last year," he said. "But once we roll, we're going to be rolling."

When it comes to gardening, Ohmes said several may have taken advantage of this weekend's warmer, sunny weather to do some preparations or even planting.

"It's one of those things that we'll just have to wait and see," he said. "But there's still plenty of time, so if it didn't survive, you may just be behind on getting it planted."

House agreed.

"But that's a risk you take by planting early," he said. "You have to be willing to take the loss if it hits you."

* Over a 24-hour period beginning at 7 a.m. Monday, 2 inches of rain fell in Sikeston, according to the Sikeston Power Plant, which serves as an official monitoring station for the National Weather Service. By the time the system moves out later today, another inch of precipitation is expected.