High winds topple area cornfields over the weekend

TCR/SCOTT BESTUL Many area cornfields were affected by high winds last Saturday evening, such as this field west of Rushford.
By : 
Chad Smith
Tri-County Record

Though southeast Minnesota farmers have faced some challenges in getting their crops in this spring, things were looking better than Michael Cruse had expected. But that was before last weekend, when leading-edge winds up to 70 mph knocked down corn in many area fields. 

Cruse, Houston and Fillmore County extension agent, said the Saturday evening storm put his  level of optimism to the test.

“Storms rolling through over the weekend brought some rainfall,” said Cruse. “We got some decent rainfall amounts, but it wasn’t anything we haven’t seen before. It was the leading-edge wind that came in ahead of the storms that did most of the damage. Some of the early reports on Monday morning said windspeeds were between 50 and 70 miles an hour. 

“There’s going to be corn laying over in spots around southeast Minnesota, From Chatfield through the St. Charles area, pretty much every cornfield has some corn laying down in it, somewhere. That means farmers are going to have some lodging issues to deal with come harvest time.”

Cruse said that, while farmers will still get something out of those cornfields at harvest time, the field really needs to avoid getting hit by other challenges through the growing season. When the structure of a corn plant changes, it gets weaker, meaning another bout of heavy wind could do even more damage. It also opens up the plant to easier access for disease. All in all, not good news for crops that got into the field late. 

“Given the late spring and the colder conditions, as well as the number of downpours we’ve seen this spring, I thought I’d see more washouts, more gullies, and things of that nature,” Cruse said. “However, other than areas hit hardest by the recent winds, the crops seem to be holding things in place pretty well, considering. Of course, there are some bad spots with this much rainfall.

“One of the big things you do see is spots where farmers couldn’t get into a field and get an herbicide application on.  That means we do have fields with weed problems, already. I’ve seen everything from giant ragweed to grasses, and it really runs the whole weed gamut. It varies from field to field. One field may look fine because the farmer was able to get out there in time while another farmer missed the window and it’s now packed in with weeds.”

Some area fields have standing water in the low spots. Cruse said a lot of the corn is getting tall enough now that it’s a little more resilient against any standing water left in the field, as long as it finally drains off in a reasonable amount of time. He’s  a little more worried about smaller soybean plants that may have some trouble handling standing water.

The excess rainfall may have caused some pre-plant nitrogen to get leached away from the corn plants that need it and  once that nitrogen was flushed out after all that rain, it may cause some yellowing in southeast Minnesota corn fields.

“Honestly, I’m not seeing as much of that yellowing as I thought I was going to see,” Cruse said. “There are definitely going to be some spots in cornfields that lost some nitrogen that the plants need.”

Soybeans are off to a slow start, simply because of late planting. Southeast Minnesota corn got in late, which meant soybeans got in late, and then the extra rainfall began to hit. 

“That meant some farmers planted some of their soybeans and then had to wait out the rain, sometimes going two to three weeks between soybean plantings, Cruse said. “There were some washed-out spots that farmers couldn’t get into until the very end of their optimum planting window. It was a long, delayed, weird spring.

“One of the nicer things about soybeans is they’re resilient. They’re definitely resilient enough to overcome a late start to the season. If you get them into the field at close to the right time, if they have water at the right point when they’re going through reproductive cycles. While beans might not knock it out of the park at harvest, you’ll get quite a bit back. That’s just how beans typically respond.”

Weed pressure is already hitting soybeans and making things a little difficult. Cruse said weed pressure in beans will likely be a bigger concern than in corn, primarily because the corn is tall enough to shade out any weeds growing between the rows. 

Soybeans aren’t big enough to shade out any weed competition, which Cruse says will mean big patches of weeds in area bean fields. “The possibility of controlling those weeds depends on the stage of growth a particular soybean field is at,” he said. “That stage dictates whether or not those chemicals have to stop being used. For example, dicamba can’t be used anymore because Minnesota law says application stops after June 20th. That’s one big tool that people have already lost. If the weeds get higher than 4-6 inches, they’re going to be very hard to control at all.

“Those weeds are going to be really thick in spots. They’ll still get soybeans out of them, especially in the parts of each field that don’t have weeds. However, there will be enough weeds that farmers will lose some yield. More importantly, if they run a combine through those weed patches, farmers will have weed issues for years to come.”

The other big challenge facing farmers is in their alfalfa fields. Cruse sees farmers out knocking down their alfalfa during dry windows, but rain has been popping up too quickly to either get the crop baled or get those bales off the fields.