soybean

The yellow tint to these soybeans indicate that the plant is done growing for the season. The heavy rains of recent days in much of the area may prove valuable for the 2008 growing season, but doesn’t do much for this year.

The rainfall totals were remarkable, particularly for how widespread the weekend torrent was.

In the nine-county region surrounding Mankato, virtually every field and farm received more than 3 inches of rain from Friday night through Monday morning — northern Sibley County being the only exception. All of Nicollet, Blue Earth, Watonwan and Waseca counties were in the 5- to 8-inch range. And then more rain came Tuesday and Thursday.

But the striking sight for farmers was what wasn’t in their fields this week — ponds of standing water.

“That’s what amazes me,” said Steve More, who said anything more than 4 inches would typically turn a lot of fields into ponds.

After seeing another quarter of an inch of rain Tuesday and Thursday combined, More’s farm midway between St. Clair and Pemberton has received more than 7 inches of rain in less than a week. But months of drought turned his land into a massive dry sponge that soaked up much of what fell, and the rest drained quickly away.

Jurgen Peters, the interim Extension agent for Blue Earth and Le Sueur counties, said the story is the same throughout the area. Massive amounts of rain but virtually no flooded fields.

“It is surprising to me to see how much water our ground took,” said Peters, who has been observing agriculture for most of his 72 years. “Four or 5 inches of rain and very few puddles around. It’s just a good indication of how dry we were.”

While the drought is now officially history, the late-coming rains won’t make much difference, if any, for this year’s crop, said Peters and More. August is almost always too late for rainfall to boost corn yields.

August rains can be a boon to soybeans, prompting another round of growth and the creation of more pods. But probably not so much this year.

“If we would have got a rain a week or two earlier, we would have got a lot of new growth on top — new pods,” More said.

The long, hot dry spell has pushed the growing season about two weeks ahead of what’s typical. Peters said the beans are yellowing around Waseca and around Mankato and points west. Those plants are shutting down for the season and won’t benefit from the late moisture. The rain might prompt the greener bean plants to grow their beans in existing pods a bit larger.

In a lot of ways, however, the big rains of the past week are more like what a September rainfall would be in a typical season — not worth much.

“It’ll give the trees a drink before fall and it will get the lawns growing again,” Peters said. “And probably in a week we’ll be swatting mosquitoes.”

It’s also good for replenishing soil moisture for the 2008 growing season and will soften up the ground for fall tillage work, meaning the chisel plows won’t take the beating they would have trying to slice through the concrete-like ground that existed before the rainfall.

But that softer ground has left corn more vulnerable to wind, and there are spots — particularly on hilltops — that are laying low and will be difficult to harvest. And, of course, the monsoon season must stop if farmers are to begin harvesting the crop in late September or early October.

There may not be standing water, but there’s plenty of standing mud. After a summer of wishing for rain, farmers wish it would stop.

“It can quit anytime,” More said.

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