Uncommon cold followed by uncommon rain in May has resulted in a lot of unplanted fields in southern St. Joseph County and throughout much of the Midwest. 
Tribune Photo/SANTIAGO FLORES
Uncommon cold followed by uncommon rain in May has resulted in a lot of unplanted fields in southern St. Joseph County and throughout much of the Midwest. Tribune Photo/SANTIAGO FLORES
Warsaw farmer Don Zolman admits he’s worried.

For the first time in 40 years, he’s starting to believe he won’t get all of his crops in the ground this year.

“I could just about guarantee there will be unplanted fields this year,” said Zolman, who farms about 3,500 acres.

Colder-than-normal temperatures in April made the soil too cold to plant and then heavy rains set in, resulting in what will likely be the fourth wettest May in history, according to the National Weather Service for Northern Indiana.

By Friday afternoon, the South Bend International Airport had already measured 7.22 inches of rain. The record of 8.33 inches was set last year, followed by 8.09 inches in 1996 and 7.58 inches in 2011, said meteorologist Megan Dodson from the National Weather Service.

But the average amount of rainfall for May is just 3.83 inches.

But the heavy rain in those record-setting years didn’t hurt farmers as much because they were able to get more planting accomplished in April or between downpours.

With the possibility of more rain coming today before the potential of a few days of drying, farmers are now considering the possibility of planting shorter-season, but lower-yielding varieties of corn or more soybeans.

Others will mull the possibility of chucking it in for the year and taking a crop insurance payment, though rising corn prices might incentivize them to continue to try to get as much planted as possible.

“There are a lot of options that farmers have right now,” said Brady Brewer, an agricultural economist at Purdue University. “But there is no clear-cut favorite.”

The phones of those who sell crop insurance have been ringing off the hook, as farmers ponder their next step, said Brewer. “Tensions are rising; there’s a lot of stress.”
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