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Despite hot, humid weather, Douglas County crops OK

If there's a low spot in a local farm field, there's likely water in it like this one along County Road 17, south of Highway 27, in eastern Douglas County. An area crops expert said the excess water was beneficial during the recent hot weather.

Basements were wet, rain seeped in, yards were soggy and there's still standing water in some farm fields.

Over the last 30 days, Douglas and Todd counties have received anywhere from 4 to 9 inches of rain, according to the Midwest Regional Climate Center (MRCC).

Most of the rain fell during the July 15 thunderstorm that sloshed through west central Minnesota.

Since then, a few more storms dropped additional rain on the already saturated soil.

So far this year, rainfall totals for west central Minnesota are about 4 inches above average, according to MRCC.

Heat, humidity,

hurting, helping crops

Polly Olson, executive director of the Farm Service Agency office in Todd County, said, overall, crops are in good condition with pockets of damage from hail and wind.

"The hot weather has been good for crops that needed to catch up; some are way behind," she said.

Doug Holen, a crops educator with the University of Minnesota Extension said growers in this part of the state have enjoyed a pretty good growing season up to about two weeks ago.

"We've had entirely too much water - too much water too fast on soil that's already saturated," Holen said.

The Climate Prediction Center's Crop Moisture Index shows west central Minnesota soil is "abnormally moist."

Coupled with the extreme heat of last week, Holen said plants started growing quickly, becoming waterlogged. Soggy fields can result in a plant that can't take in the oxygen and nutrients it needs. That causes plants to fall behind quickly, he said. Corn stalks can easily lean and snap off.

However, if you've been out and about in rural areas, lush, green corn and bean fields make up the local landscape.

Holen said, "Generally speaking, crops do look pretty good now. With the extreme heat that we had, we were very much fortunate to have that moisture in the soil. The last couple of weeks have really moved corn and soybeans along. We needed that heat and sunlight to catch up the row crops. July is a pivotal month for corn yields and August for soybeans."

Now that crops are faring well, insects are the next challenges for farmers, Holen said. Just to the west of Douglas and Todd counties, soybean aphids are becoming an economic concern for growers.

Also, disease in small crops - like wheat and oats - are always looming later in the growing season; harvest for those crops is just two weeks away, Holen said.

Crop conditions

As of July 24, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that, statewide, 54 percent of corn was at or beyond the silking stage - that's a 43 percent advance from last week, but 27 points behind last year and 10 points behind average.

Statewide, 56 percent of the corn crop was rated in good condition and 16 percent is listed as excellent.

For soybeans, 54 percent were rated in good condition and 15 percent were rated excellent.

Amy Chaffins

Amy Chaffins is a journalist working for the Echo Press newspaper in Alexandria, Minnesota.

(320) 763-3133