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Snow Spells Trouble for Farmers

by Stan Maddux

Published: Friday, November 30, 2018

Farmers with corn and soybeans still out in the fields expect yield losses from the several inches of heavy, wet snow that fell Monday in Michiana.

Bob Nielsen, an agronomy professor at Purdue University, said the high moisture content in the snow can flatten soybeans, making it difficult for combines once they can get into the fields to get underneath crops on the ground.

Nielsen said another problem facing late harvesting soybean growers is pods cracking from being in the fields too long and spilling beans that can never be recovered.

Corn holds up better under the weight of wet snow but can collapse if the stalks have been weakened from age or disease, he said.

Rain or snow, Nielsen said any precipitation was not welcomed by farmers delayed in getting crops out of the field by wet weather during the second half of the harvest season.

"I think any way you look at it, crops that remain in the field at this point it's just a headache from this point forward and a real challenge for people," he said.

Now, it might not be until mid-December to bring this year's remaining crop in from the fields unless the ground freezes quickly enough to support the weight of combines and other machinery, he said.

Without a hard freeze, Nielsen said it takes longer for the soil to dry because of cooler weather and shorter periods of daylight.

Mark Dussel harvested the 60 acres of soybeans he still had out in his fields near Cassopolis last Friday and Saturday after seeing the forecast for snow.

He ran out of time to harvest any of the 55 acres of corn still out in his fields.

Dussel estimated he'll lose up to 5 percent of his corn not harvested yet because of stalks flattened now and two weeks ago when several inches of wet snow came down.

"A lot of them that are on the ground are going to stay on the ground," he said.

Right now, he said even slight yield losses hurt because of grain prices being so low.

The quality of crops brought in so late in the season can also suffer and command even lower prices at the elevators.

Nielsen said the amount of corn and soybeans in Indiana not harvested right now is actually close to the five-year average at this point in the season.

According to USDA, 8 percent of corn and 7 percent of soybeans throughout Indiana were still in the fields last week.

Nielsen said the amount seems higher, though, because of ideal weather early in the harvest season that allowed farmers to get off to a fast start.

Dussel said he's late getting to all of his crop because of late planting from a wet spring and when the weather was ideal for harvesting some of his corn and soybeans weren't quite ready to bring in.

When the grain, still a bit green, was ready to harvest, he said the weather became too rainy.

Matt Shafer, a corn and soybean grower in LaCrosse, said all of his crop was brought in before the end of October, but he knows other farmers with crops still out in the fields.

"I know of a few guys that are still working to get through some double crop beans, and this isn't going to speed things up," he said.

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