Cautious optimism expressed by farming community

Doug Heintz, pictured at left, is keenly aware of how the hot weather may affect his corn crop. He is pictured with Troy King.
~ Jennifer Ely/The Caledonia Argus

By Jennifer Ely
The Caledonia Argus


At the beginning of July farmers’ expectations were high for a good crop year. Concerns, however, crept in  when rain failed to fall.

Jerry Tesmer, the extension educator of ag production systems for Filmore and Houston Counties, said that he was surprised how this production year had been going. “Beginning of the year seemed like a great year but now without rain it is turning out to be a medium to poor year,” he said.

Tesmer said that he didn’t notice anything specifically different pertaining to planting and harvesting this year. He thought the farmers may have tried something different to help their crops avoid the scorching heat we have experienced for the past two weeks. All Tesmer noticed was farmers started chopping their second to third crop of hay already, which should not take place – usually – until August.

“Other places are much worse than we have it here,” Tesmer said. “Southern Illinois and Ohio are extremely dry.”

“The weather has been exceptionally challenging and unpredictable for farming,” Tesmer said. “For example, Cannon Falls is doing particularly well because its soil is very wet, but Preston’s soil could be nothing more than dry.”

“Farmers have to be very careful with what they plant especially in the dry season because if you leave wheat in the soil for too long in dry weather the wheat will suck up all the moisture from the soil leaving other crops with nothing,” Tesmer said.

In addition to being careful to what farmers plant in dry weather, they have to be cautious about insects. Dry season causes more variety of insects than you would usually see.

“Spider-mites could be a real issue to soybeans this year. We won’t really know the magnitude of spider mites yet until Aug. 1. This is because if we remain with no rain until Aug. 1 and it still stays this dry the spider mites will start to multiply rapidly causing more of a bigger issue,” Tesmer said.

“Other problems relating to this heat index is the livestock. The livestock themselves are managing the heat well but the livestock resources are not. The pasture is not growing nearly as well or as fast as the farmers would like. Pasture is one of the biggest feed for livestock, and with dry weather the livestock is eating too much of the pasture that the pasture can’t keep up and isn’t growing as fast as it should be. This creates a problem because without pasture there is no feed for the livestock. Without pasture for the livestock, farmers have to buy feed instead of growing feed. With farmers having to buy feed the prices on feed will go up, which is okay for a little while but down the road this could cause a major problem,” Tesmer said.

As for crop production this still remains okay today. “Rain would help tremendously, but farmers can still accumulate some good crops with or without rain. There is always a chance the field could just be too dry, rocky and sandy from the weather that there could be no way for crops to sustain life in that kind of soil. There is always a possibility for a farmer not to be able to harvest any crop, but that chance is very low to none. Overall a crop production will be harvested whether it be small or large,” Tesmer said.

Doug Heintz, a local producer in Caledonia, remains vigilant in taking care of his operation.

Heintz said, “We could be in a very critical stage if we don’t receive any rain very soon.”

“This weather could be comparable to the drought of ‘88 if we  don’t get any rain,” Heintz said.

Heintz agreed with Tesmer that farmers are ahead of schedule, especially with cutting hay. Heintz already has cut his third crop of hay, which he usually doesn’t cut until August.

“The biggest thing the weather has had an effect on is the pasture. The alfalfa is doing okay, but the pastures are burnt out,” Heintz said.

Insects haven’t been too big of problem for Heintz, but he has noticed that potato leaf hoppers were in his alfalfa, which he has already sprayed for twice.

Heintz hasn’t noticed anything specifically different on his corn because of the weather except for one thing. “I’ve noticed the corn has thicker stocks this year and the roots are going deeper down into the soil.”

However, Heintz said it will be a successful year. “I’m optimistic we’re going to have good corn.”

He also tries to accommodate his livestock. On a recent visit, he had 14 fans running in his barn trying to protect the cows from the sun. The main priority is keeping the cows cool.

“Anything warmer than 68 degrees cows can start to show heat stress,” Heintz said. “With the extreme heat last week my livestock dropped 10 percent on intake and production dropped 10 percent as well.”

But once his livestock started to cool down from the intense heat Heintz noticed a complete turn around.

“Everybody is stressed for their cattle and corn. Everyone is just trying to do their best to accommodate the cows.”

To prepare for a small shortage in hay, Heintz is going to chop more corn this year. Many other farmers could have to find or grow alternative feed sources because of the small shortage of hay this summer, which has been caused by the weather.