The past several days has been filled with news reports, photos, and stories about the flooded roads, buildings, and towns across many areas of South Central, Southeast, and Central Minnesota.
Historic rainfall amounts occurred in a portion of that region on Sept. 21 and 22, with a large portion of the region receiving 4-6 inches of rainfall, and some areas receiving 10-14 inches of rainfall in a 48 hour period.
Nearly every river, stream, and creek in that region has been flooded, and was out of its banks following the heavy rainfall event, causing millions of dollars of damage to homes, roads, bridges, and farm fields. This flooding event is comparable to the severe early fall flooding in many areas of South Central Minnesota in the September, 2010.
The flooding, which is among the worst ever in many areas, was caused by the 4-14 inches of rain across much of the region during the two days. This type of intense rainfall is very unusual in September, and is usually more likely to occur in the spring and early dummer. Some locations across the region also had strong winds and hail, along with the heavy rains, which caused additional damage to some crops.
The University of Minnesota Research and Outreach Center at Waseca recorded 10.16 inches of rainfall on Sept.21 and 22, which is likely the highest 48-hour total ever recorded during September, in the over 100-year history of the Waseca site.
As of Sept.22, the U of M research site had recorded a total of 14.37 inches of rainfall in September, which is also the highest on record. The normal precipitation total for September at Waseca is 3.19 inches.
The Waseca research site has now received a total of 48.68 inches of precipitation for 2016, which is 40 percent above the normal average precipitation of 34.70 inches for an entire year at Waseca. The research center has now recorded 35 inches of rainfall in the past three months, since July 1.
In addition to the property and infrastructure damage caused by the extreme rainfall and flooding, there will likely be considerable crop loss, along with potential major delays in the 2016 corn and soybean harvest.
The corn and soybean fields near any rivers, streams or creeks will likely be a total loss in most of the region, as will most other low lying, poorly drained portions of farm fields. Many of these fields had some fairly good yield potential prior to the storms and flooding; however, in some locations, portions of these fields had already been damaged from storms and heavy rains back in June.
Most farmers in southern Minnesota and northern Iowa are now dealing with completely saturated soil conditions, which is likely to delay soybean and corn harvest across the entire region.
A majority of soybeans in the region will soon be ready to harvest, as will a considerable amount of corn, once field conditions are fit for harvesting. In some areas it will be several days before combining can begin, while in other areas it will take a week or longer of dry conditions for fields to be fit. In many fields farmers will be forced to combine a portion of the field, leaving the balance until the fields dry out.
Soybean harvesting is the number one concern right now for most producers. Once the soybeans are mature, they dry down rather rapidly in the field, especially with warm, sunny weather conditions.
Once this occurs, the soybean pods can “pop open” in the field prior to harvest. There is also concern regarding the stem strength of the soybeans that were in partial standing water for several days. If field conditions remain too wet to harvest the soybeans for a long period, there is potential for considerable field loss during soybean harvest.
The wet field conditions also increase corn harvest concerns in the region. Some corn has been damaged by strong winds and hail that occurred in severe storms during the 2016 growing season in some locations.
The storm-damaged corn, together with a higher than normal incidence of stalk rots, increases the likelihood of more stalk breakage in corn this fall. This problem will likely increase later in the fall, especially in fields with considerable amounts of standing water.
The crop damage and harvest delays are especially difficult for affected crop producers that are facing very tight profit margins in 2016. Farm operators were looking at some very good corn and soybean yield potential for this year’s crops in many locations.
The soybean yield potential appeared especially solid across the region, with the corn yield potential being a bit more variable. Now, many producers are in a “wait and see” mode regarding corn and soybean harvest, hoping that the yields on a majority of the crop acres are strong enough, in order to offset yield losses in the fields and portions of fields that were lost to the heavy rains and flooding.
Crop insurance considerations
Farm operators with crop losses need to contact their crop insurance agent prior to harvesting fields with significant crop losses to make sure that those losses are reported and verified. Producers also need to keep good yield records, and follow crop insurance verification procedures, in order to maximize crop insurance indemnity payments on damaged crop acres.
Crop insurance indemnity payments will vary from farm-to-farm, depending on the level and type of insurance coverage that was purchased for the 2016 crop year, and on the final 2016 corn and soybean yields.
Producers facing significant crop losses that have “optional units” for crop insurance policies in 2016 could be in a position to collect considerable crop insurance indemnity payments on farm units with large losses. However, producers that have “enterprise units” for their 2016 crop insurance coverage may have more difficulty verifying sufficient crop losses to gain substantial indemnity payments for the 2016 crop year.
“Optional units” insure crops on an individual farm basis, so a producer can collect crop insurance indemnity payments on one or two farm units, while not receiving payments on other farm units. “Enterprise Units” require all the crop land of a given crop in a County to show a crop loss, in order to receive crop insurance indemnity payments.
Many producers have switched from “optional units” to “enterprise units” in the past few years, due to significant savings in the crop insurance premium costs with “enterprise units”.