Spotty prolonged rainfall delay farming plans, prices add to hurt


Now I know what farmers complain about in spotty rains. Last week a spotty rain fell on my head.

When I looked out to go to work, bright sunshine was everywhere. By the time I picked up my laptop bag and got out the door it started to rain. Big drops splatted on the sidewalk. By time I got to the car, I was wet.

I looked straight up to see the rain cloud responsible. A little black cloud not much wider than my apartment building dropped rain. The next nearest clouds were half mile away.

This rain shower didn’t reach to the end of the block. No kidding.

Spotty rains plague farmers trying to plant crops and bale hay.

Big widespread rains are rare. Neighbors receive different rainfalls. Spotty rains with varied rainfall become the norm.

At harvest last fall, farmers noted different yields from one end of a field to the other. Forage farmers found differences in nitrate levels across hayfields. Spotty rains with different precipitation affected nitrates.

The weekly MU Extension teleconferences abound in tales of frustration from too much rain in the wrong spots.

With delayed planting, farmers fret about when and if to plant.

The word from state specialists says stay with planting plans.

If corn was planned, stay with corn. Over ages this has changed. Early research showed that mid-May was the cut off.

Like so many things, changes were made in corn hybrids. Modern hybrids can still make a crop planted late.

Greg Luce, MU Extension agronomist who has lots of experience with hybrid corn, now says plant corn until June 10. That’s way past old rules of thumb.

He threw in another tip: Stick with long-season hybrids don’t shift to short-season numbers. That’s old school advice.

Similar advice came from Bill Wiebold, MU agronomist known as “Soy Doc.” He studies dates of planting.

Wiebold added that variety switches are about impossible. There are seed shortages. “Any available variety probably isn’t what you want.”

Soybean farmers delayed planting when getting soil temperatures above desired 55 degrees was tough. That 55-degree target isn’t just for a couple of hours in a day. The soil should stay warm, once it reaches that goal.

Soybean hybrids have improved as well. They’ll hang in there.

Farmers faced major concerns about the weather in planting season of April and May. In an early teleconference Wiebold pointed out that crucial weather months are July and August. Timely rain at pollination in July determines corn yields.

For soybeans, as we saw in recent years, good rain in August, after July droughts make bumper crops. Lack of rain at seed set for corn or beans makes for crop failure. Timely rain sets the year’s bean yield.

On top of weather worries, this year soybean farmers are hit hard by drops in exports sales lowering crop prices sharply. An unplanned trade war with China hurt America’s farmers.

An initial tariff jab at China was bad, but a second whack was too much.

Commenters noted that China leaders were strategic in aiming retaliation at red states. That includes Missouri where soybeans are the top crop, in a state where agriculture is No. 1 income source.   

Even though China has a strong authoritarian leader, he listens to his economic advisors. Their strike-backs to our tariff were strategic.

In contrast, a little reported story last week told the resigning of USDA economists. Advisors are ignored by our leaders.

Bright news was unified news releases from U.S. commodity groups after the second wave of tariff strikes. Agriculture in total hurts.

Livestock, not just soybeans, suffer.

Missouri Soybean growers have a powerful message to tell about their years spent opening trade with China. Bean and pork sales became a major response to our trade deficit with China.

Farm sales brought China money to Missouri.

We are proud of our forward thinking farm leaders.

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