Rain, wet ground causing planting delay for farmers
ARENAC COUNTY — Steady rainfall in recent weeks is taking its toll on area farmers, as sugar beet growers are behind schedule, and corn growers are in danger of falling behind as well.
Kim Kroczaleski, of the Arenac County Farm Bureau, said sugar beet farmers have not been able to plant yet, and usually do so in late April.
“They usually do not start planting beets until probably right around the 20th of April,” she said. “It’s not super late yet, but obviously it’s going to be if it doesn’t stop raining. So far I don’t think there have been any crops that have went in.”
If the area had dry conditions for several days in a row, Kroczaleski said farmers could still have decent sugar beet crops. However, if the rain continues and further delays planting, the situation could start getting urgent.
“Technically, if it were to quit raining now and start drying, they’re still not super far behind,” she said. “If it gets to be mid-May and there’s still nothing going in, it’s going to start getting a little more critical.”
Kevin Noffsinger, a Standish cash-crop farmer, said he does not personally plant sugar beets, but knows many people in the farming community who do. He said they are growing nervous.
“I don’t grow sugar beets, but the guys that do grow them, they’re more than a little behind I guess,” he said. “They’re getting pretty nervous now. Sugar beets — if you can get them in the first week of April or the second week of April — that gives them a whole lot longer to grow in terms of their yield.”
Noffsinger said when it comes to sugar beets, the good news is that there is no specific ripeness needed before harvest.
“You can plant sugar beets the first of June. They don’t really have to get ripe,” he said. “You dig them when you need to in the fall, but they won’t be as big. It’s like growing a carrot. The longer the carrot’s in the ground, the bigger they get.”
Unfortunately for Noffsinger, a crop he does plant, corn, does need to ripen before harvest.
“The ideal time to plant corn for our area, for the highest potential yield, is in that April 28-29 to May 5 period,” he said. “If conditions are decent and the ground is warmed up, that’s your ideal time.”
Noffsinger said warmer, drier temperatures in the next couple of weeks would allow his corn crops to still have relatively high yields, but he did admit he is starting to watch the calendar pretty closely.
“I’m getting a little nervous now, and going a little stir-crazy,” he said. “You can only grease the equipment so many times.”
Corn that takes longer to mature often provides a higher yield, and might have to be swapped out for corn that matures over a shorter period of time, Noffsinger said.
“The longer-maturing varieties of corn yield better, so that’s what you like to do,” he said. “Once you get past the 10th of May, the growing conditions aren’t quite as well. It might be pollinating when it’s hotter in the summer. You might have to start planting the shorter varieties.”
So far this spring, Noffsinger said he has not even gotten close to working the fields and planting.
“I haven’t even considered getting the tractor and going out into the field because it hasn’t even been close to considering that,” he said.