Spring rain and flooding will leave Washington County farmers with below-average corn and soybean yields with future weather potentially causing more issues.
"They're not going to have the same productivity they've had before," said Nathan Mueller, an Extension agronomist in Dodge and Washington counties.
Floodwaters and consistent spring rains prevented planting in many fields and cut down on the number of suitable work days, so acres that could be planted were done so later than normal.
Corn planting season ended in June and soybean planting season is technically over by today, Mueller said. What was planted in Washington County was much less than normal, he said.
Many farmers filed for prevented planting insurance with the USDA's Farm Service Agency, some of whom planted cover crops like alfalfa on those acres instead of corn or soybeans. In recognition of farmers' difficulties, the USDA recently announced they will allow them to hay, graze or chop cover crop fields starting Sept. 1 rather than Nov. 1.
In addition to cover crops, at least in fields that could be planted, many farmers used 103-day maturity corn rather than 113 to combat hardships, Mueller said. But mother nature is likely to remain oppressive.
The National Weather Service (NWS) forecasts call for chances of rain or thunderstorms into the foreseeable future, which could set up problems for harvest season.
If crops don't reach maturity before a frost, they could possibly freeze and die. Saturated fields could also cause issues, like what happened during a wet 2018 harvest. For soybeans, excess moisture could cause molding, sprouting or shattering where pods split open and spill seeds. Corn could potentially snap below the ear to cause yield loss.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the NWS predicts at least a 20 percent chance of rain until Monday. Van DeWald, a meteorologist at the NWS in Valley, said any storms that come through could, depending on their movement, leave trace amounts of precipitation or up to an inch or more.
"If you get a storm that moves slow it could be around an inch to an inch and a half," he said. "Not to say we will get rain in the Blair area (every day), but there's a chance."
Crop conditions are already worse this year compared to previous seasons. According to a Nebraska crop progress report from the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service, 26 percent of both corn and soybeans were rated very poor to fair for the week ending July 1 compared to 14 percent for the same week in 2018.
Mueller said any additional issues that arise after an already tough planting season could aggravate yields more than the current below-average expectations.
"There's a lot of challenges that farmers have been in," he said. "It's probably one of the toughest years I've seen since I moved back in 2014. We had the hailstorm in 2014, but this year is right up there as one of the toughest."