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USA - Excessive rain has done damage to crops

When it comes to crop production, most long-term farmers will say “no two years are the same.”

That statement is certainly true in many portions of southern Minnesota and northern Iowa as it relates to the 2018 growing season, in comparison to the previous year.

The 2017 crop year featured almost ideal growing conditions across the region, which resulted in record corn and soybean yields in many locations.

The first half of the 2018 growing season has been much different, with some areas dealing with very late planting, while other portions of the region are having continual excessive rainfall and poor growing conditions.

Many portions of the southern third of Minnesota and the northern portions of Iowa, as well as southeastern South Dakota, received more than double their normal precipitation during June. This trend continued into early July. There were also extreme rains in some locations, causing considerable drown-out damage to crop fields. Some farmers were able to replant some early varieties of soybeans in mid-June, only to have some of those replanted soybeans drown-out again in early July.

In addition, some storms brought hail and wind damage to crops.

Besides the drown-out damage to crops, many crops have struggled due to the continued saturated soils.

A major concern because of all the rain is the loss or lack of available nitrogen for the growing corn. Soil nitrogen losses increase during heavy rainfalls early in the growing season.

Corn plants in saturated soils have a much shallower root system and are not able to access the nitrogen that is deeper in the soil. In some cases, farmers planned to side dress some nitrogen fertilizer, but were not able to do so because of the wet field conditions.

The monthly precipitation amounts were quite varied across the region. Total rainfall at the U of M Southern Research Center at Waseca in June was 5.78 inches, only 1.09 inches above average. By comparison, total June precipitation at the U of M Southwest Research Center in Lamberton was 7.18 inches, more than 3 inches above normal. This trend continued at Lamberton in the first three weeks of July, and total precipitation since May 1 is now nearly 18 inches, almost double the average.

According to Minnesota State Climatology data, average rainfall amounts for June in most counties in the southern three tiers of counties in southwest and south-central Minnesota ranged from near 8 inches to more than 10 inches. This is at least double the normal precipitation for these counties.

Many of these same counties in southwest Minnesota continued to have heavy rain during July, with extreme flooding in some areas.

The good news is that crop conditions have improved in southern Minnesota for crops that were not severely damaged by the rain. Soybeans have shown the greatest improvement and many corn fields look much better than they did a few weeks ago.

Many producers in the hardest hit areas will likely have a wide range of corn and soybean yields this fall.

Crop conditions in central and northwest Minnesota, along with portions of southeast Minnesota, are mainly good-to-excellent.

One thing that has benefited crop development, as well as compensating for late planting dates, is the above normal growing degree units (GDU’s) since May 1.

The July 16 weekly USDA Crop Progress Report showed fairly strong crop ratings for mid-July. Based on the report, 77 percent of the corn and 75 percent of the soybeans in Minnesota were rated good to excellent and only 7 percent of the corn and 6 percent of the soybeans were rated poor.

In Iowa, 78 percent of the corn and 75 percent of the soybeans were rated good to excellent, while Illinois had 80 percent of the corn and 73 percent of the soybeans in the higher categories.

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