Farmers assess flooded fields, gauge growing season

Sunday, March 30, 2008 | 7:19 p.m. CDT; updated 10:06 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

DUTCHTOWN — There’s a lot more than flood water that’s coming into play for farmers in southeast Missouri trying to gauge what sort of a growing season they’ll have.

In the wake of heavy rains and in many cases drenched fields, they need to assess the aftereffects of flood waters, the cost of replacing fertilizer, and the point they were at in the growing cycle, which will affect some crops more than others.

Much of the wheat crop planted last fall in southeast Missouri is expected to survive recent flood conditions, but corn farmers could experience decreased yields if they aren’t able to plant by mid-April.

Wheat covered with water only a short time will come out for harvest in June, said Gerald Bryan, director of the MU Extension in Cape Girardeau County. But in flooded fields farmers lost at least half of the nitrogen fertilizer they had put down, and they’ll have to replace it.

That could affect the bottom line.

But, the heavy rains that fell in southeast Missouri in recent weeks could bring some benefits, helping to warm the soil and green up grasses faster. That has meant that cows are starting to eat less hay and that there’s a good prospect for a decent hay crop, Bryan said.

At Larry Quade’s farm, most of his 1,000 acres were affected by flooding, with about 300 acres still under water, though it has been receding since Wednesday.

He said the water was higher than he had ever seen it in 35 years of farming and it came close to his house. “It was pretty scary, it was so fast and furious,” he said.

Quade said he’s had topsoil erosion on his farm, and needs to clean out ditches, but doesn’t yet know how 300 acres of wheat will fare. “It could turn out OK, but we’re definitely hurting some,” he said.

He isn’t yet worried about the prospects for planting his corn crop. If corn planting is delayed too long because of wet soil, farmers can wait and plant short-season corn, a species that matures faster than the usual 110 days.

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