Farmers Race for Lost Time

Jun 1, 2011

Farmers breathed a sigh with the clear skies and 90-degree plus weather, but now they face a new challenge. They must make up for time lost because of the wet weather and quickly plant crops that should already be in the ground.Keenan Bishop, Franklin County Agriculture and Natural Resources extension agent, says there is just enough time to get the planting done, but farmers will have to hurry.

According to the National Weather Service, Frankfort’s 13.25 inches of precipitation during April was the highest on record for that month. It far surpassed the previous record of 9.28 inches during April of 1948. Just a few more inches would have surpassed the state’s overall record of 15.77 inches set in January of 1937.

Bishop says that depending on the crop of choice, the weather will impact each farmer differently, but there is no doubt that an impact will be felt.

Bishop says tobacco farmers may face an increased chance of disease in their plants because they have had to keep them in greenhouses throughout the rainy period.

Other farmers may have to spend extra money on supplements to feed their livestock because of a decreased supply of hay.
Some farmers may have to purchase extra herbicide or fertilizer to make up for any washed away by rain.

Corn farmers caught one lucky break. In spite of the possibility of a smaller crop than expected, the price of corn is currently so high that Bishop says it should even out any economic hardships they would have been facing. This may encourage farmers to stick with corn instead of switching to soybeans, a common practice.

In Kentucky, corn and soybeans account for more than half and as much as three-fifths of the annual cash receipts for planted crops.

University of Kentucky agronomist Chad Lee told The Courier-Journal that in a normal year farmers would switch over to soybeans by June 1, but farmers like Kevin Dick in Oldham County said the muddy spring has kept him from planting a single soybean yet this year.

“And I was kind of lucky to get the corn done — mudded the last of that in,” Dick said.

Planting in muddy conditions can result in poor root system development and stunted growth for corn.

“Over the past five or 10 years, I don’t know that we’ve had a spring quite like this one,” Lee said.

Lee said there are other worries that the wet spring could throw off seed development through August, one of the state’s hottest and driest months.

“We’ve had a little bit over half of our annual rainfall already at this point. And so if you’re playing the numbers that doesn’t bode well for rain throughout the rest of the season,” Lee said.

Terry Rhodes, a Daviess County farmer, said he has a couple of days more of corn left to plant, already has about 30 percent of his beans planted and can been done in about a week. Rhodes said corn planted in late May in western Kentucky can still turn out well, he said.

“It just depends on the rainfall in the latter part of July and during the first half of August,” he said. “So I never give up until it’s in the grain bins. You never know what can happen.”

Non-farmers throughout the county may notice that the wet spring makes a difference for them, as well. Delayed availability of summer vegetables and fluctuating prices of corn-yielding grocery items were just a couple examples that Bishop gave of changes that may be noticed in upcoming months.

In spite of any hardships caused by the weather, Bishop says it is nothing farmers aren’t used to dealing with.

“You always have to have a plan B and C when you’re a farmer,” Bishop said.