Many Butler County farmers started off way behind the curve earlier this spring with getting corn and soybeans planted, but the good news is that nearly all of the county’s corn – and a sizable portion of beans – is in the ground and starting to emerge.
And with everything the land experienced this season with the severe March flooding and other inclement weather conditions in the following months, most county producers appear to be fairing OK, said Melissa Bartels, innovative cropping and water educator for Nebraska Extension-Butler County.
“We had only about 5 percent of the corn planted at the end of April, and from what I could see, very little to no beans planted,” Bartels said. “We were fighting with lots of moisture. But if you fast forward to the end of June, we probably had most, if not all, of our corn planted.”
Typically, Bartels said that producers aim to have their corn in the ground between April and May. Beans may be planted around the same time or a little later, generally in May and even June. The timeline of getting both crops into the ground took a hit because of high amounts of rainfall which limited farmers' planting window.
“We just had so many rainy days in April, May and even into June,” Bartels said. “We would only have a few days of relief before we would get another day of rain."
From the end of May through June 25, Butler County producers were forced to deal with anywhere between 6 and 10 inches of rain beating down on their fields, according to Bartels. That in conjunction with other adverse factors coming earlier in the year slowed down production to a certain extent for many.
“The moisture kept them out of the field (early spring) because if you go into the field you are going to compact the soil, or you have more of a chance to compact the soil, which can also cause issues,” Bartels said. “And a lot of stuff was also delayed because, if you remember, last fall harvest was delayed and people were still trying to harvest into October and even close to November.
“So, a lot of people didn’t have the chance to do stuff they normally do in the fall to prepare for the spring – they just didn’t have the chance. And then, of course, we just had all of the water.”
Even with the hiccups, Bartels said that she hasn’t heard of many farmers in the county who were forced to scrap planting on many portions of their land. Fortunately for producers, Bartels noted that there isn’t a surplus of farmland positioned along the county river system. Most of this consists of recreational areas and other developments.
“Here in Butler County, a lot of that land up by the Platte (River) is, from what I’m told, used for recreational use,” she said. “So we have our lake communities up around there and some people did lose fields, but nobody has talked to me personally about that. And I’ve also heard that a fair portion of that land is used for hunting.
“So I haven’t heard too much about people not being able to plant due to the flood, but more of the secondary stuff associated with all of the water, just because it has been so wet.”
Many farmers around the state, however, are faced with the primary problem of just figuring out a way to plant this year, said Tyler Williams, a cropping systems Nebraska Extension educator based out of Lancaster County whose focus is on how climate and weather conditions impact agriculture throughout the state.
For most producers earlier this spring, it was really just a matter of where they were positioned when the colossal amounts of water started rolling through.
“It really depended on where you were at,” Williams said. “If you didn’t get completely flooded out then it was just sort of a setback, but if you had flooding from the river and standing water it really slowed down your progress early in the season. It (water) kept the land from warming up and drying out and it really hindered any planting window in April.”
Many state farmers this year were forced to be very tactical with planting because certain areas of their land weren’t salvageable. So, they planted where they anticipated the best results. Across the state, Williams said it's expected that yields will take some sort of hit.
The extent of that hit, though, really has yet to be determined.
“A lot of the stars have to align weather-wise for the crops to reach full maturity if they (producers) have still been planting now or over the last several weeks,” Williams said. “The chance for loss is relatively high and yields are expected to be down … Some got in early and won’t fair too bad, and some didn’t plant anything at all.
“It’s definitely going to be an interesting year, and a really interesting year for us in terms of the research we will collect. But, it’s definitely going to test people’s limits.”
Sam Pimper is the news editor of The Banner-Press. Reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.