Area farmers concerned with lack of rain so far this summer

Published 11:29 am Monday, July 3, 2023

HAYWARD — While some people appreciate the drier than average weather outside, others, specifically local farmers, are concerned how the weather impacts their business.

David Schewe farms 340 acres of soybean and corn crops outside of Hayward, with most in Riceland Township.

For him, planting season started in early May with corn followed immediately by soybeans before 3 to 4 inches of rain kept Schewe and his wife, Diane, from getting back out to the field, where they managed to finish planting May 21-22.

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Since finishing planting, David said the weather has been dry, noting there was little rain in June.

“I was just out this morning and I had 8/100 in the rain gauge,” he said.

According to David, a typical June would see up to four inches.

“We are much drier than typical around here,” he said.

Adding to the problem, he noted areas around him, including Albert Lea, were seeing a lot more rainfall.

“Part of the issue with the rain is that some of the chemicals need to be activated by rain, so we haven’t had enough rain to even activate all of the chemicals that would kill the weeds,” Diane said.

But weeds, detrimental to growing yields, could still grow with or without rain.

He’d like to see 200 bushels of corn per acre and 50 bushels of soybeans. But because corn and soybeans are stressed searching for moisture, David said without rain they’d be lucky to get 50 bushels of corn and 20 bushels of soybeans.

He said neighboring farmers were also looking for rain and were concerned.

“You cannot sell crops if you don’t have any,” he said.

The Schewes plan to harvest soybeans the first week in October, with the corn following.

David grew up in the farming business since 1946, and his son Scott also farms.

And while the couple is semi-retired, he worried about Scott and other young farmers who didn’t have equity built up or financial resources to withstand bad years.

Like the Schewes, Tim Westrum also farms soybeans and corn on his farm outside Glenville.

“Corn gets used for ethanol primarily, and the soybeans get used primarily for livestock feed,” he said.

While admitting every growing season was different, he described this year’s as “a challenging one.”

He echoed the Schewes’ sentiment that this year was drier than usual.

“Typically I would say we get too much rain,” he said. “This year we’ve had a long, extended time now where we haven’t had enough rain.”

Describing himself as an optimist, he said as long as there was adequate rain there would be an “OK” crop, though he admitted that was yet to be determined.

He also felt there was too much rain in the middle of May, followed by too little rain.

“The crops, in main respects, are behind where they should be as far as growth stage,” he said. “… When you compare it to average or normal, I would say one to two weeks [behind].”

The weather was also causing emergence issues with crops, with crops unable to emerge well due to the heavy rains earlier. And with the lack of rain, crops were in dry dirt and not able to grow well.

“It’s going to be a year where if you are fortunate enough to catch the right rainfall, it has the potential to be a very OK year,” he said. “But there will be the haves and have nots this year.”

So far, his farm has managed to catch enough rain, though he was hoping for more.

Typically, Westrum harvested soybeans at the end of September with corn in October.

Speaking with others, he said this was the most expensive crop ever.

“The seed and the fertilizer and all of the inputs that it took to grow this crop were at record-high prices,” he said. “We have a lot of risk out on our fields right now because all of that had to be paid for.”

Westrum was hopeful for “something north of 70 bushels per acre” for soybeans as well as “something north of 200 bushes per acre” for corn.

“Again, it’s going to all depend on the rainfall right now,” he said.

Westrum has been farming for 21 years.

“I got started in the operation with my father,” he said. “Grew up learning about farming with him.”

He started renting land within the Glenville and Hayward area, as well as buying machinery, but didn’t have the opportunity to buy land until a decade ago.

Westrum, who studied agriculture and business in college, declined to state how big the farm was.