Nobody likes to see snow on a soybean field.
For city folks, it means winter has come too soon. For farmers, it means Mother Nature has, once again, given them a kick in the pants.
This fall’s cold and wet weather has left farmers facing tough choices, said Nick Baker, agriculture agent for UW Extension, Rock County.
The problem really started last spring, when the majority of the crops went into the ground two to three weeks late, he said.
“It kind of rained all summer, and it never really got too hot, so we had a delayed harvest,” Baker said. “And now, this weather is delaying us even more.”
About 5 inches of snow fell last week, rain came Sunday night and more snow is predicted this week.
Farmers don’t have a lot of good choices.
They can wait for the fields to dry and then harvest their crops, but the weather doesn’t look like it’s going to cooperate any time soon. Meanwhile, corn and soybeans are soaking up all the extra moisture from rain and melting snow, Baker said.
Farmers will get less per bushel from high-moisture corn because grain elevators have to dry it.
When soybeans soak up moisture and then go through the freezing and thawing cycle, the pods split, and the beans end up on the ground.
Farmers could wait until the ground freezes, Baker said, but if the cold brings even a little bit of snow, that’s not great, either.
“The soybean pods go from the top of the plant to the ground,” Baker explained. “So even if we get 2 or 3 inches of snow, we’re going to have to leave 15% to 20% of the yield potential out there.”
In addition, harvesting frozen grain can damage combines. Alternatively, combines’ sieves can get blocked, and the corn ends up on the ground, Baker said.
This season’s one positive might be high yields. Harvesting conditions will reduce those yields, but at least farmers might break even, Baker said.
Joe Martin, who farms in the town of Fulton, said it has been a frustrating season. He’s going to use his high moisture corn to feed his dairy herd. He milks about 200 cows and has young stock to feed, as well.
One of the challenges is that this year follows last year’s wet and less-than-ideal harvest conditions, Martin said.
But weather isn’t something anyone can control, he said, and you just have to try again next year.
“It’s one of those years we just want to turn the page on,” Martin said.