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Frankenmuth Fire Dept.

Area wheat farmers looking for rainfall to complete grainfill

   The month of May started off cold and with a fair amount of precipitation in the Saginaw Valley and Thumb regions of Michigan.

  That quickly changed to unseasonably warm temperatures and more importantly, a lack of rainfall. The region has not experienced any appreciable rain for over a month.

  Meanwhile, area farmers have long completed sugar beet planting and nearly all agriculturalists have their corn, dry beans and soybeans in the ground and emerging from the soil.

  Meanwhile, a winter wheat crop planted last fall was filled with promise in early spring . . . until the lack of moisture has changed the mood of the area farmers.

  Star of the West Milling Company President Jim Howe harkened back 35 years when similar dry and warm conditions took over the month of May.

  “This seems to be a repeat of 1988. We were dry all May and it was further exasperated into June,” Howe recalled. “The farmers were waiting for rain to finish soybeans and plant dry beans. They finally put little snowplows on their planters to scrape off a few inches of dust and stick them in moisture toward the end of June.”

  The earliest wheat harvest Howe has recorded took place June 25, 2012. In March of that year, temperatures were in the 80s for a stretch and the fruit trees popped out early and all the sugar beets were planted before Easter.

  “The frost did return and the fruit crop was a bust,” Howe noted.

  Howe said the early warm up the area experienced the second week of April woke up the wheat crop earlier than normal as the crop began to head out

  Although the lack of rain is troubling for the local crops, the temperatures may help the winter wheat a bit.

  “We are in the grain fill period so having the temperatures a bit cooler is helpful,” Howe pointed out. 𠇊s of now, we are heading and flowering. I would typically hope to stay on the drier side during this timeframe due to vomitoxin concerns.”

  “We are in need of some moisture for all crops. Lawns look like August, not early June. I’m not ready to panic as I have been through a few of these events, but it sure would be welcomed by most,” Howe said. “The dry weather is the focus of most of the farmer conversations.”

  Howe each year, early into the growing season, predicts the first harvest date and is sticking to his chosen date this year.

  “We are still on schedule for a July 3 harvest. With the great start we had last fall, these plants are rooted fairly deep and that will help in this droughty period,” Howe concluded.

(c) 2006 Frankenmuth News