Farmer Bob Nunemaker walks through muddy fields on his property Tuesday afternoon along C.R. 40 near Goshen. Steady rain through April and May has kept him from planting corn and soybeans on his 1,200 acres of farmland. "This field is one of the first or second fields we plant," he said. "We had this planted by the 26th or 27th of April last year," Nunemaker said. Staff photo by Ben Mikesell
Farmer Bob Nunemaker walks through muddy fields on his property Tuesday afternoon along C.R. 40 near Goshen. Steady rain through April and May has kept him from planting corn and soybeans on his 1,200 acres of farmland. "This field is one of the first or second fields we plant," he said. "We had this planted by the 26th or 27th of April last year," Nunemaker said. Staff photo by Ben Mikesell
GOSHEN — Corn and soybean seeds should already be in the ground, but the wet spring has kept Bob Nunemaker from planting his crops this year. He and other farmers throughout Elkhart County have been feeling the pressure as the time window to plant their crops slips by.

"I've got 80 acres of corn and 80 acres of beans planted, that's all we've got done." he said. Those 160 acres are only 13% of his 1,200 acre property along C.R. 40.

In April, 6.8 inches of rain fell in Goshen, which was 3.65 inches more than average, according to the National Weather Service. Through the first 20 days in May, there's been about 2 more inches of rainfall.

For farmers like Nunemaker, it's not necessarily the amount of rain that is a problem, but rather the high frequency of rainfall throughout the spring that keeps the ground wet. Since the beginning of April, it has rained more than .01 inches on 26 separate days, according to the NWS weather reports. The temperatures during that time period have not helped either, as the average high temperature in April was 58.5, and in May it has been 65.9 degrees.

"We're not getting any heat," Nunemaker said." So when it's not raining, it's not drying."

Nunemaker said he has strongly considered using the prevented planting provision in his insurance policy, which he has never had to do in 48 years of farming. The policy provides coverage when extreme weather conditions prevent expected plantings, per the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

"With prices the way they are, we need to get the biggest yields we can," he said. "We were hoping just to break even this year, but that opportunity to break even is getting further and further away from us."

Jeff Burbrink, Purdue Extension Educator, has seen many farmers in similar situations as Nunemaker. As of May 19, just 14% of the corn crop has been planted in Indiana, compared to 86% this time in 2018, according to the USDA, and only 6% of soybeans have been planted, versus 70 percent last year.

"I talked to several farmers this week about the delayed planting season," Burbrink wrote in his weekly column. "When the calendar reads mid-May, you begin to wonder if (you) should go ahead and start planting, even if conditions are not ideal."

Problems can occur when seeds are planted in mud, he said.

"If field conditions are so wet that the disks opening the seed slot cause the sidewalls to compact, you will have problems that follow you through the entire growing season, and possibly into next year." Burbrink said. "When soils are that wet, the seed slot often does not close, allowing varmints in to eat the seed."

USE CAUTION ON ROADS

Farmers are expected to take advantage of the holiday weekend to finally plant crops, which could cause problems for Memorial Day travelers.

"Be aware that state and county roads will be occupied even more frequently than ever by large pieces of agriculture equipment, tender trucks and vehicles pulling tanks, as well as vehicles delivering seed and plant nutrition to the fields," Ceres Solutions Cooperative senior risk manager Phil Pirtle said in a release. "We are headed into an unusually pressured time frame where significant work must be done quickly and safely.”

If the ground dries up by the weekend, Nunemaker will be in one of those tractors clogging the roads, though he gets no enjoyment out of it.

"Please be patient with us guys on the road," he said. "You'd be surprised at the number of fingers I get."
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