Wet autumn delays harvest

Published 10:00 pm Monday, October 16, 2017

ST. PAUL  — A wet autumn has some Minnesota farmers working against the clock as they deal with a delayed harvest amid approaching winter weather.

Harvesting soybeans and other crops in a soggy field can compact the soil, which may stunt the growth of crops in the next growing season, the Minnesota Public Radio reported.

“Compaction doesn’t go away when you pull the combine or the truck out of the field,” said Dave Nicolai, educator at the University of Minnesota Extension.

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Compaction is why John Schafer, a farmer near Buffalo Lake, is holding off on harvesting soybeans. He said conditions have improved, but channels are still apparent from when he tried to harvest silage to feed his cattle.

“If you look over here, you can see what I was dealing with a couple days ago,” he said about his field. “It certainly is not ideal to be doing this, but when the cattle need feed, the cattle need feed.”

Farmers said they’re concerned that pushing the harvest too late can run the chance of snow. And even if crops get harvested before winter, farmers said there’s a chance soybeans and corn will be wet, causing mold and fungus to grow.

“It’s going to cost more money, and with low commodity prices, that just adds to the cost of production,” Nicolai said.

Kenny Blumenfeld, a climatologist with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, said the weather trend is toward heavier rains. He said climatologists are researching whether October’s rains are part of a changing pattern fueled by climate change.

“We have seen all the way back through the record in Minnesota episodes of heavy rainfall in October,” he said. “We know we’ve seen things like this in the past, and what we probably need to figure out is, is it actually changing or was this just a bad year.”