Winter weather conditions take a toll on Michigan farmers

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Garden City Harvest grower Brihannala Morgan gazes over her five-row plot after harvesting the last of what she could from the plants in snow that hit Missoula, Mont., Sunday, Sept. 29, 2019. Morgan got the last of her tomatoes and peppers, hoping they will ripen off the vine at home rather than freeze in the garden. (Sara Diggins/The Missoulian via AP)

LANSING — Yields are down this year after heavy rains this fall and early snowfall this November.

And that has many Michigan farmers concerned about not producing enough this winter.

“Most Michigan farmers were anticipating a late-harvest due to the late planting of many major field crops, but the end of the 2019 crop-year is proving to be just as difficult as the start of planting,” Michigan Farm Bureau Field Crops Specialist Theresa Sisung said. “Yields had already been negatively impacted due to late-planting — but the harvest-delays this fall are just adding insult to injury at this point.”

Soon, farmers will have to abandon their crops as winter approaches. Some of those crops that could be left without being tended to include sugar beets and potatoes, which are more likely to suffer in single digit weather conditions. Michigan sugarbeet harvest is falling behind every other major sugarbeet producing state.

“Many farmers are also concerned they won’t be able to harvest corn for grain due to the late-maturing of the crop, with estimated moisture content of grain that has been harvested running as high as 26% instead of the normal 18% to 20%,” Sisung explained, adding that corn harvest is only 33% complete compared to the five-year average of 66%. “Unfortunately, the current weather pattern shows no significant dry-down opportunity.”

Harvests and yields are down across the board too.

Compared with last year, soybean harvests are down 12 percentage points and the moisture level is running 3 percentage points higher than the normal average of 14 to 15 percent.

The USDA’s November Crop Production Report, based on conditions as of Nov. 1, 2019, highlights the weather impact to Michigan and national-level yields and total production:

  • Michigan corn production is expected to be 263 million bushels, down 11% from last year. Michigan corn for grain harvest progress was the third lowest in the nation; only North Dakota and Wisconsin were further behind
  • Michigan soybean yield is down 5.5 bushels from 2018  
  • Sugarbeet growers anticipate a yield of 27.9 tons per acre, down 1.2 tons from last year.
  • U.S. corn production for grain is forecast at 13.7 billion bushels, down a percent from the previous forecast and down 5% from last year.
  • Based on conditions as of Nov. 1, corn yields are expected to average 167 bushels per harvested acre, down 1.4 bushels from the previous forecast
  • Area harvested for grain is forecast at 81.8 million acres, unchanged from the previous forecast but up slightly from 2018.
  • U.S. soybean production for beans is forecast at 3.55 billion bushels, down slightly from the previous forecast and down 20% from last year. Based on conditions as of Nov. 1, yields are expected to average 46.9 bushels per acre, unchanged from the previous forecast but down 3.7 bushels from 2018. Area harvested for beans in the United States is forecast at 75.6 million acres, unchanged from the previous forecast but down 14% from 2018

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