Record Rainfall Washes Crop Dreams Away
Wet spring could provide new opportunities.
Article Co-authored By Larry Clemens, The Nature Conservancy and Randy Kron, Indiana Farm Bureau
Midwestern states have seen their fair share of rain this spring, keeping farmers out of the fields during planting season, but none more than Indiana.
Consistent, heavy rains through the winter and spring seasons have left fields too wet to plant, jeopardizing the income of Hoosier farmers across the state. These farmers are the heart of the agriculture industry in Indiana which provides billions of dollars of revenue, hundreds of thousands of jobs, and accounts for more than 60% of our land use across the state.
So far this year, just 67% of nearly 5.5 million acres of corn are planted, according to Monday’s U.S. Department of Agriculture’s crop report. Last year at this time, 100% of corn was planted. The story’s the same with soybeans with only 42% percent of soybeans planted compared to 96% last year.
It seems when it rains, it pours. The weather adds another layer of complexity to the already heavy burden that has been placed on those who produce the food we need. The imposed tariffs and other regulatory changes cause concern to the ever present expenses that come with the need to maintain and upgrade equipment, feed the soil with fertilizer and other costs that come with running a farm.
Heavy rainfalls are becoming the norm during planting season and they’re causing farmers to rethink their techniques. For years, groups like Indiana Farm Bureau and The Nature Conservancy have been listening to farmers to better understand their field practices and what challenges they face. INFB and TNC have been working with farmers to help them prioritize conservation as they push for higher yields. When we break down the barriers that prevent trying new practices on the field, farmers are able to implement tactics to improve soil health while decreasing the amount of sediment and nutrient runoffs that fill our waterways.
While you might not care to know the specifics of floodplain restoration, easements and cover crops, it’s important to know that they are good for the environment, to help with soil health, improve yields and flood abatement. The real bottom line for all of us is a more prosperous agricultural community and cleaner, healthier water for all Hoosiers.
Farmers are the original environmentalists. As farmers ourselves, we understand the relationship between water conservation and farming and have focused on it with our partners in agriculture and with state and federal agencies. Through certifications like TNC’s 4R program, we can educate our farmers about better ways to manage fertilizer so less runs off into waterways. The 4R program helps farmers apply the Right Form of fertilizer, at the Right Rate and Right Time and in the Right Place, through a set of voluntary guidelines. Other efforts include floodplain restoration and stormwater management.
All of these efforts help build a resilient agricultural landscape in Indiana to provide farmers conservation opportunities, even in rainy planting seasons like this.
Farmers, like the state’s agriculture landscape, are resilient. We may be drowning in flooded fields, but it comes with renewed opportunities for agriculture and freshwater.
Larry Clemens is state director of The Nature Conservancy in Indiana. Randy Kron is president of Indiana Farm Bureau.
The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 72 countries and territories: 38 by direct conservation impact and 34 through partners, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.