Heavy rains flood U.S. farmers' fields, raise river levels

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Heavy rains across the northern U.S. Midwest this week flooded corn and soybean fields, damaging crops, and raised river levels which could slow some grain shipments by barge for the next two weeks.

Parts of Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota and Nebraska that received 5 to 10 inches of rain in the past week-the equivalent of about two months' of rainfall-are expected to benefit from drier weather next week, said Josh Senechal, agricultural meteorologist for Freese-Notis Weather.

There have been localized reports of damage to corn and soybeans from flooding and strong winds, Senechal said.

"It looks like the real heaviest rainfall is going to be done," he said.

Farmers whose fields were flooded are worried their corn and soybeans will die if they sit underwater too long.

The storms put the Minnesota River at Savage, Minn., where shippers such as CHS Inc and Cargill Inc have grain elevators, on course to hit moderate flood stage early next week, according to the National Weather Service.

The rising water levels were expected to bring barge loadings to a halt as vessels cannot safely pass under a river bridge, a barge trader in Minnesota said.

"We're probably not going to load anything all next week," he said.

Water has been slow to recede from fields in northwest Iowa, killing corn and soybeans in affected fields, said Joel DeJong, a field agronomist at Iowa State University. Farmers have time to replant soybeans, but corn fields destroyed by the flooding will likely lie fallow this summer, he said.

Dave Fogel, a broker for Advance Trading in Bloomington, Ill., projected crop ratings for both crops will drop in a weekly U.S. Department of Agriculture condition report on Monday.

The U.S. corn crop was rated 76 percent good to excellent as of June 15, the best mid-June rating in 20 years, due to favorable weather.

Vance Johnson, a farmer in Breckenridge, Minn., said he was worried his corn yields will suffer because heavy rains likely washed nitrogen fertilizer out of the soil. He awoke to find the fields behind his house were underwater.

"If we can get this water off in 2 days, I dare say we could be ok," he said. "It won't kill it off, but more than likely it's going to hamper it.”

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W. E.    
upper southeast  |  June, 21, 2014 at 12:11 PM

We have great sympathy for these folks. For us, the most recent flood disaster came in 2011. The floods followed a terrible drought year, 2010, which had left many ponds and shallow lakes completely dry. We dug our main pond deeper so that wouldn't happen again. Then, in a an area where the average annual rainfall is about fifty inches, our farm got about eighty inches of precipitation in 2011. Raging flood waters left many crop fields here devastated, eroding a great deal of topsoil. Ponds overflowed repeatedly. In our humid river delta environment, only about twenty-seven inches of rain had fallen in 2010, most of it in the winter and early spring. Then again in 2012, immediately following the flood year of 2011, an even worse drought hit. The flooding rains and snows of 2011 slowed in early 2012, and then stopped completely a couple of weeks after a tornado on Leap Day. Only a few sprinkles came down from the sky until the following January, in 2013; only about 20 inches fell during the entire year of 2012. Back in the 1980s, when seven out of ten years were drought years, we learned something saved our cow herd in 2012: The best defense against both too much rain and too little rain is healthy soil covered year-round with live plants, held and protected with deep roots. Some of our fields enjoyed this protection, providing some forage even during the worst of the drought. Crop residues and cover crops got the cows through the winter, even when our hay supply was far less than adequate. Although we culled hard and came close to selling too many, we did not have to reduce our productive main cow herd to survive the drought of 2012. Surviving flood and drought requires planning, work and foresight, humility and faith.

Ronald Chappell    
Florida  |  June, 22, 2014 at 11:04 AM

This must be more of the catastrophic global warming drought that I've been reading about.

Iowa  |  June, 24, 2014 at 08:50 AM

With the catastrophic climate change our crops keep setting record yields year after year. So what is so bad about climate change. Would you rather wear a sweater or eat.

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