Dealing with severe weather: don’t sell the farm just yet

Written by Keith Brownell on Jul 15 2014

Category: Grow Grain, Sell Grain

This is a tough time, but you're not alone. Cargill's experts are here with agronomic and grain marketing advice.

A canola field with standing water in low spots.

Co-authored by Keith Brownell

Record rainfall across the Prairies has farmers facing some tough decisions. Should I push through to harvest or cut my losses? Will I have any production this fall or should I buy out of my contracts? Everyone is feeling anxious, but you don’t need to feel powerless.

Walter Ens: Agronomic Advice

Whether you’re dealing with wind, rain, drought or hail, here are 5 things to consider before calling the insurance adjuster:

1. Crops tolerance
Different crops can tolerate different amounts of moisture. Take cereals for example – oats bounce back the best after heavy rains, followed by wheat and then barley. Faba beans handle moisture better than soybeans, and soybeans are more resilient than edible beans. Wet fields don’t have to mean zero yield. 

2. Length of time crop exposed
I recently drove by a corn field where half of the stalk was submerged under water. However, the leaves were above the water level and the crop was still green – photosynthesis was still taking place. That crop will still yield.

It’s important to note that while some crops can tolerate wet feet, no plant can survive without roots. If roots are submerged without oxygen for any significant length of time, root decay will begin as soon as the water recedes and oxygen is reintroduced. 

3. Plant stand
Determine exactly the plant stand you need to reach your economic yield goal. That way, once your field has recovered from severe weather, you can evaluate the crop density and decide whether to move ahead or cut your losses.

4. Soil texture
Periods of heavy rain can drown out crops planted in dense clay soils. Sandy loam, on the other hand, provides much better drainage. Its coarse texture allows oxygen and nutrients to continue reaching plant roots, so crops recover more quickly and with fewer symptoms of yield loss – provided the roots were not starved of oxygen for any significant length of time.

A canola field showing patches of bare ground.

5. Weed pressure
Severe weather doesn’t usually take the whole field, just patches. I know it’s tempting to ignore these pockets of bare ground, but this empty space is an open invitation to weeds. Barnyard grass, curled dock and biennial wormwood will rob moisture and nutrients from the surrounding crop. Talk to your agronomist about controlling weed patches so they don’t hurt what yield you have left.

Keith Brownell: Grain Marketing Advice

This is a very emotional time for everyone, but you can take away some of that emotion by focusing your energy on determining where you actually stand. 

1. Take control of your current situation.
Go through the steps to get a clear understanding of your assets and expenses. 

  • Figure out how much grain you have left in the bin from last harvest.
  • Ask your agronomist to assess your field so you know how much crop has been lost and can forecast what your harvestable acres may be.
  • Go through 4 or 5 years of field history and determine what kind of yield you can still expect from those reduced acres.
  • Total up the grain contracts you need to deliver on.
  • Total up any bills that need to be addressed, and figure out the terms associated with them.

Even if there’s a gap between the production you’ve committed to and the yield you can deliver, you now have a real number to deal with. You can find a solution for a real number. 

2. Reach out and start talking to people.
You might find your problems aren’t as bad as you thought.

  • Talk to your grain company about the contracts you might not to be able to deliver. Many contracts can be rolled forward to the next crop year.
  • Connect with your business partners, creditors and bank, and start talking through some of the challenges you’re facing. 

As you communicate with your partners, your stress and anxiety will likely start to lessen as you work together through one issue at a time. 

3. Start to think about resolutions.
First, make a plan for solving the smaller issues you have identified. Each one you address is one less thing to worry about. The magnitude of your concern, anxiety and stress will start to diminish, and you’ll feel like you’re regaining control.

Do you have a Plan B that you can implement? Can you plant a forage crop, fall rye or winter wheat? If so, this will help you focus on the future instead of what has happened.

There’s no doubting that this is a tough time, but you don’t have to weather it alone. Cargill’s agronomic and grain marketing experts can help you work through these challenges and find a solution. 

Tags: Agronomy, Cargill Experts, Grain Contract

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