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USA - Soy and corn farmers experiencing severe reduction in yields due to spring rain

The unprecedented spring rain dealt a blow against farmer’s fall yields.

Overall, Michigan soybean harvesting is a third of what it usually is, according to the Michigan State University Extension. This is due to the irregular growing season this year.

Mike Glass is headquartered in Shiawassee County, but has hundreds of acres including in Genesee County surrounding Horizon Lakes Airpark in Fenton Township. He rotates his crops and would have planted corn or soy this spring. Instead, the fields sat unused.

He said due to the spring rain, he was only able to plant 45 percent of what he usually does in corn and soy. Of that, he said 40 percent has been harvested as viable goods.

“We just started harvesting, we’re gonna have to stop because there’s a lot of beans that aren’t dried out,” he said, describing the spring planting schedule as “broken.” The recent fall rains slowed the harvesting process, which must be done before the frost hits.

He was only able to plant 30 percent of the corn he usually does.

Soy and corn must both reach maturity and be harvested before frost. So far, Michigan is behind 2018 numbers with corn reaching maturity, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) with the United States Department of Agriculture.

By Oct. 6, 2018, 76 percent of Michigan corn had reached maturity. As of Sunday, Oct. 6, 2019, 31 percent of planted corn had reached maturity.

A sign of soybeans maturing is when they drop their leaves, reaching the “R7” stage of development. Michigan soy is behind at this stage as well. Of the soy beans planted, 69 percent have reached this stage of development. In 2018, 88 percent were in this stage.

Because the fields were planted irregularly when they could find a dry space between spring rainstorms, soy is also maturing at different rates. Glass said that he’s harvesting what was planted right before the spring rains.

Once he harvests some soy, he has to wait for the next group to mature.

Philip Kaatz is the Michigan State University Extension point of contact for farmers in several counties including Genesee and Livingston on field crops. He said the spring weather has affected crops, especially in those counties along the I-69 corridor, which he said had the highest amount of unplanted crops in Michigan. Other Great Lakes States had similar issues.

He said in his 36-year career, it’s the worst spring he’s seen.

Pat Starrs of Starrs Farms in Fenton Township said his yield will be about 60 percent of normal.

He grew pumpkins, squash and fall sweet corn. “When you push a crop back in Michigan, the days get shorter and crops get shorter, also,” he said. “If it matures at all it will be lucky for a lot of places.”

He said farmers always find a way to survive until next year and hope for a better season ahead.

Glass said he’s carried crop insurance for 12 years and this is the first time he’s used it. It doesn’t completely cover his substantial losses, but it helps. Like any farmer, he uses strategy to pivot and maximize the land. He would normally be planting corn at the airport property, but because of the rain, he’s planted winter wheat that can go dormant through the frost and harvest in July.

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