Waiting to till

An already miserable planting season got worse earlier last week with constant rain for several days in a row.

Grant Buck, Ward County Farm Service Agency executive director, said spring planting has been going extremely slow for pretty much every producer in the county.

“We’re three to four weeks behind due to the excess snow (because of) the long winter and cold temperatures, so they got a late start just by the fact that snow hadn’t melted,” Buck said. “We probably really didn’t get going until May 10, so that’s quite a bit behind the normal starting period for field work.”

Buck said growers were already behind before the deluge of rain at the beginning of last week, and now the added precipitation has really shortened up the amount of seeding time left. While Buck said the moisture is nice to have, it would have been nice had it come later in the season after planting had been taken care of and there were crops in the ground to take advantage of it.

It’s not just the fall harvest that’s being affected by the late planting, either. Buck said the planting dates that crops must be in the ground by for crop insurance purposes are quickly approaching. Canola’s planting date, which was Tuesday, has already come and gone. The deadline for corn and dried peas was only a few days later, on Saturday.

“And with all the rain we’ve gotten to this point it doesn’t look real good, and it’s unlikely it’ll dry up enough for them to seed those other two crops by the seeding deadline,” Buck said Tuesday of corn and dried peas.

There’s a little more leeway with wheat, Ward County’s predominant crop, which has a deadline of June 5. While Buck doesn’t have any numbers for Ward County, he said statewide spring wheat producers are 50 percent complete, which compares to 98 percent complete at this time last year. He figures Ward County growers are at about the same point.

“I would say we’re at that same ratio,” Buck said. “We’re looking at not even half of where we would have been last year.”

The deadline for soybeans, flax and dried beans is even later than wheat, on June 10.

“So there’s a little more opportunity,” Buck said. “Should this weather cooperate, there are some other options. But this first go-round has maybe put an end to some of their (planting) intentions,” Buck said. “I think we would have seen a little more corn seeded in Ward County this year had the weather cooperated.”

The crops with the earlier deadlines are almost certain to take a hit to their acreage numbers this year. Buck said there were 94,428 acres of canola in Ward County last year, a number he said will be significantly lower this year. The 24,448 acres of corn in 2012 was one of the highest totals Ward County has ever had, and will probably not be matched this year, either.

While there is still some time left in the planting season, Buck said it isn’t out of line to speculate that this year might have some high prevent plant numbers.

“It would be a little early to say anything at this point, but just looking at the amount of rain we’ve gotten and what the forecast is looking like, we could be in a position of having some prevent plant that no one really likes to anticipate,” Buck said. “That’s become more and more a reality for this year. We can’t tolerate any more rain after this (latest downpour).”

Even after the crops are eventually put into the ground, producers still have quite a bit to worry about this year because of how much moisture remains in the soil.

“We’re already probably under saturated soil conditions. If this persists and we have a cool and wet season, then that can pose some disease problems,” Buck said. “So we’ll just have to wait out and see what kind of weather pattern we’re in.”

Although many producers are behind this spring, Buck said some are having a better time of it than others. He noted that while field conditions have hardly been ideal, things could actually be worse than they are, considering all the wet weather.

“It kind of varies. I’m sure there are producers out there that haven’t even gotten anything seeded yet. I’ve talked to some that are nearly half done. Maybe overall we’re 1/3 or 40 percent into it,” Buck said. “And I’m a little surprised we’ve got that much in considering we have had such a late start and there haven’t been a lot of days that they’ve been able to get in the field.”