Richard Bartek tries not to complain about rain.
“I don’t want to complain about rain. We can’t raise grain without it,” the 63-year-old farmer said Tuesday after a morning shower doused his fields in Saunders and Lancaster counties.
But in the next breath, Bartek mentioned he has only started his tractor a handful of times in May and he knows producers whose tractors haven't left the barn because frequent deluges and swollen creeks have flooded their fields.
“Farming, it’s a gamble. We have to live with Mother Nature and make adjustments,” he said.
Getting Nebraska’s soybean crop into the ground is far behind its usual pace this year. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported Tuesday that 59 percent of the state’s soybeans had been planted by Sunday, compared to 85 percent at this time last year and a five-year average for the date of 73 percent.
Corn goes in earlier than soybeans, and planting starts wrapping up at the end of April and beginning of May, before the weather pattern turned to wet. Producers have planted 92 percent of the statewide corn crop, near the 96 percent planted at this time last year and the five-year average.
The USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service reports 73 percent of the corn crop has emerged, compared to 70 percent last year and ahead of the 67 percent five-year average. The corn crop this year was rated 7 percent very poor or poor, 32 percent fair and 61 percent good to excellent.
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Some areas of Nebraska have had less rain, including land north of the Platte River, and farmers there have been able to get crops planted, said Nebraska Soybean Board Executive Director Victor Bohuslavsky.
But where the rain has been plentiful, each day farmers are kept out of the field eats away at their yields.
“You start seeing yield loss after the first of May,” Bohuslavsky said. “If the plant isn’t out there growing it can’t very well produce.”
About .15 of an inch of rain fell at the Lincoln Airport Tuesday morning and pushed the city’s rainfall total for the month to 10.83 inches, topping the 10.72-inch record set in 1903, according to the National Weather Service.
The wet, cool weather -- temperatures last week averaged 6 to 8 degrees below normal for the state -- also creates prime conditions for crop diseases including stripe rust in wheat, pythium seedling and root rot in soybeans and fusarium stalk rot in corn, said Tyler Williams, a cropping systems educator with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension.
Late last week, the USDA Farm Service Agency sent out a media advisory reminding farmers to report when weather has prevented planting or caused acres to fail as they might be covered by the government’s Non-insured Crop Disaster Assistance Program.