Many Prevent Plant claims as farmers battle wet spring

Chad Smith

Cool temps and wet weather have made this a tough spring for farmers needing to get crops in the ground. While some farmers had to take their Prevent Plant insurance coverage because their ground was too wet, others were able to get crops in their fields. Areas near a river were typically hit the hardest, but crops planted higher up on the ridges seem to be doing okay.

“There are crops growing in spite of the challenges,” said Houston/Fillmore County Extension Educator Michael Cruse. “The first cutting of hay is down too. While there was some hay that got rained on, we did have a brief window between rainfalls to get some hay up. Corn and soybeans are coming up too. If I had to make an estimate, I’d say development is 2-2.5 weeks behind normal.”

Cruse said his office has fielded a lot of calls this spring from farmers trying to decide whether or not to take the Prevent Plant payment, to plant late, or even do a cover crop on unplanted acres. Farmers who took the Prevent Plant option now have acres that won’t be planted this year. The decision now is what can farmers do in that field?

“People are considering cover crops because they’re concerned about losing forage for their livestock,” Cruse said. “As a result of that, there are talks about moving up the deadline for farmers to let their animals graze on any cover crops they plant.

“While the University of Minnesota doesn’t necessarily recommend cover crops, they’re an easy path to do the two main things farmers have to do in a Prevent Plant situation. You have to control weeds and control soil erosion. A cover crop will help farmers meet both those requirements. But, they’re not actually required unless you have some sort of conservation plan in place for highly erodible land, which we have a lot of in this part of the state.”

Cruse said having a backup plan for some extra forage might not be a bad idea given the fact that most everything is at least two weeks behind normal development. He said because of the amount of Prevent Plant acres in southeast Minnesota, farmers might find certain cover crop seeds in short supply.

“Some of the corn and soybeans in the area looks pretty good just eyeballing it from a vehicle,” Cruse said. “Some of the crops out there is lighter in color, which makes you think it might be short on nitrogen. We also may just need the weather to warm and those roots to dig deeper. It’s possible that farmers may need to come back and do some side dressing.”

Because everything was pushed back at least two weeks, one of Cruse’s biggest concerns is weed control. “Planting delays also mean spraying delays,” he said. “I’ve seen at least a couple of spots in area fields where the weeds have gotten to at least knee height, if not taller, and in big bunches. I know farmers went through and sprayed those spots but I’m really cautious about saying for sure whether or not they killed those weeds. I’m really concerned about weed control as this year goes on.”

So, what happens if a farmer finds the weeds have gotten too tall in certain areas? “We say this every year and people still giggle, but inter-row cultivation is not the end of the world if you want to save 5-10 years of hard work getting on top of a weed problem that got out of control,” Cruse said. “It might be worth getting out there with a piece of iron either attached to your tractor or in your hand to get rid of them. Good crop scouting is going to be even more critical this year.”