Local farmers tackling effects of heavy rains

Published 5:40 pm Friday, June 28, 2024

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By Ayanna Eckblad

This year has been unusual for southern Minnesota. After a drought over the winter season, the weather has shifted this spring and summer to heavy rainfalls and incidental flooding. Not only does this lead to roads being closed and buildings being damaged, it also has an effect on the year’s crops.

Bancroft Township farmer Brad Nelson has experienced the damages of this year’s rainfall firsthand. Beginning in spring, the amount of rainfall made it difficult to get seeds into the ground for planting. After that, there were issues with seed rot. At this point in the year, he said his crops are not at the level they usually are.

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“They’re definitely behind, there are a lot of drowned-out spots.” Nelson said. The field he was working in Thursday had brown and yellow patches as well as standing water.

Having been in the business for decades, Nelson said this is not the worst year he has seen in terms of rainfall. He remembers in particular the summer of 1993, the year that brought about what many remember as “The Great Flood of 1993.” During that time, southern Minnesota received from 175 to 225 percent of its normal precipitation, according to a climatology report by the Minnesota DNR.

Nelson said there is very little farmers can do to prepare for excess rain, and it has caused more damage to his fields than the recent drought.

Gary Yokiel grows 100 percent organic corn, soybeans, oats, peas and alfalfa on a farm northeast of Wells. He said although many of his crops required a lot of moisture at the beginning of the season, the excess water is now hindering growth.

The peas, alfalfa and oats in particular have all started yellowing.

He suspects the wet season is here to stay for the year.

“Effects will be there in the fall, too, come harvest,” he said.

This year’s rainfall has made the short window of time available for planting even smaller, leading to problems down the road not just for first rounds of crops, but second ones as well.

“It’s tough,” Yokiel said. “Planting later has caused some problems too, having the right conditions to plant.”

However, some have managed to find a silver lining this summer. Michelle O’Connor, whose property is between Geneva and Austin, grows corn and soybeans.

“I’m more positive than most farmers — I’ve been called an idealist,” O’Connor said. “You know, we’ve had considerable rain, but because of the drought last year, I actually consider it a blessing … God has answered all of our rain prayers all at once.”

O’Connor said, due to the location of her farm, the water damage done to crops was minimal. “We do have some drowned out areas, primarily the beans.” She explained that the height of corn makes it better able to withstand flooding.

O’Connor also said she feels for those who were hit harder by flooding, especially those who had vegetables rained out.