Farmers, homeowners, contractors bogged down by wet weather

By Tim Krohn

Mankato Free Press

MANKATO — Tell people you’re doing a story on the wet weather and no one needs any prodding to jump right in.

Farmer Angela Guentzel: “Rain, rain and more rain.”

Blue Earth County Public Works Director Ryan Thilges: “Rain, rain go away.”

Farmer Kevin Poppel: “It’s been miserable.”

Alan Kiefer, youth baseball manager: “It’s monsoon season.”

They and plenty of others are not just feeling blue about the gray skies but are facing plenty of inconveniences as events are postponed or canceled. And others are feeling economic pain as field work and construction projects fall behind and basements get flooded when sump pumps overheat and die.

“For June, Mankato usually has about 2 1/2 inches of rain at this time. The Mankato Airport got 5.4 inches so far and our weather observer in Mankato had 9.7 inches so far (as of Thursday morning),” said Michelle Margraf, observing program leader at the National Weather Service in Chanhassen.

The observer in Mankato is south of the airport. “The farther south and a little west you go from Mankato, the wetter it’s been.”

She said Amboy has had more than 10 inches this month and Fairmont got hit with 4 inches in just the 24 hours ending Thursday morning.

“There’s a front over the area that’s a focus of showers and thunderstorms, and it just hasn’t moved much,” Margraf said. “It moves a bit north or south and there’s a little sun, and then it drifts back in.”

Starting Friday she said the front will move south and linger there a few days, bringing sun and warmer weather to the Mankato region.

But.

“The models show it moving back in by mid next week.”

Farmers wait

Guentzel, of Guentzel Family Farms near the Mankato Regional Airport, said recent weeks have put farm work far behind.

“We haven’t been able to get in the fields for a few weeks other than a day or two.”

Poppel, who farms near Lake Crystal and Madelia, also has been waiting things out.

“It’s getting critical,” he said. “For a lot of farmers there’s a lot of crop left to have herbicide put on it. Usually by this time of year we’re done with herbicide on corn and starting soybeans.”

Guentzel said they, too, are waiting to apply weed killer.

“For people who do side dressing of nitrogen, they haven’t been able to get in either.”

Side dressing refers to a practice many farmers use to apply nitrogen fertilizer in smaller doses a few times a season rather than at one time. It helps reduce nitrogen loss and gets it to corn plants while they’re growing vigorously.

Poppel said he usually would have applied his second of three doses of nitrogen a couple of weeks ago but hasn’t been able to get in the fields.

Guentzel said some farmers haven’t even been able to get crops started at all. “Some had some drown out and wanted to replant but can’t. Further south of here they never initially got anything planted and they haven’t been able to.”

The wet weather also hit farmers who use the herbicide dicamba, a broad-spectrum weed killer used on soybeans that are engineered to accept the spray without damaging the soybean plant.

In recent years there have been problems of dicamba spray drifting into neighboring fields of non-dicamba soybeans and killing or damaging them. That led the state to prohibit dicamba from being sprayed after June 20 because it tends to drift more when temperatures are hotter.

Some state lawmakers had asked the Ag Department to extend that deadline this year because of the wet fields, but Minnesota Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson this week said the deadline won’t be extended.

Guentzel doesn’t use dicamba but Poppel does. He said he and others who use the herbicide will now have to find alternatives.

“We’ll have to go back to some of the older chemistry we’ve used in the past,” Poppel said. He said farm co-ops and retailers who sell herbicides are now scrambling to find enough other herbicides to swap for dicamba.

“It’s unfortunate, but we can’t do anything about the weather. You have to change plans and it adds to the cost per acre, and that’s tough when things are tight right now in the ag economy,” Poppel said.

Guentzel said that in spite of recent weeks, the crops are doing well — so far.

“The crops are actually looking great,” she said. “We had that heat early on and there was good emergence and everything looks nice.”

But extended soggy fields will take their toll, both farmers said.

“It’s scary because it can cause a major effect on yield,” Poppel said. “We’re water-logged, and if that doesn’t change soon, that will affect yields.”

Construction slowdown

Thilges said many road projects are on hiatus.

“We got a little paving done on some of our maintenance overlay projects but otherwise most of our operations have been suspended until next week,” the county’s public works director said.

“A lot need grading in ditches and turf establishment, and you can’t do that when there’s a foot of water in the ditches.”

Crews have been able to continue work on tree removal in preparation of a major construction project on County Road 1, which goes by Mount Kato. But work on County 12 and 14 has been halted.

A major rebuild of Record Street in Mankato also came to a stop this week.

Private developers working on apartments and home building also are being held up in many cases. That comes on top of a delayed start this year because of the late winter and wet early spring.

“Play ball?”

Many outdoor events, from farmers and flea markets to athletics also have been rescheduled or canceled.

“We expect rain June, but this year has been tough,” said Kiefer, general manager of the Mankato Area Youth Baseball Association.

“We canceled this whole week of baseball for everybody in Mankato.”

He said MAYBA will extend its season for one week, to the fourth week of July. “This happens every few years.”

Wet basements

Paulette Goebel, of Kaduce Plumbing & Heating in Mankato, said the past week has been busy as people get water in their basements.

“Either the sumps die and we’re replacing them, or they’re not big enough to keep up and they need bigger ones. There’s been trouble with sewage pumps as well.”

She said the calls have come from all over the Mankato-North Mankato area.

Goebel said some people also are getting water in their basements and don’t know where it’s coming from.

She said sump pumps that run a long time continuously can overheat. Pumps that are designed to be in the water rather than up on a pedestal tend to stay cooler while running.

Goebel said two sump pumps in her own rural home usually run steadily early in the spring, but this year it’s been worse. “The pumps are going constantly.”

They’re coming

The mosquito season in Minnesota has been fairly quiet so far because of the late spring.

But experts with the Metropolitan Mosquito Control District said they expect that to change as the rain comes to an end and temperatures warm, KARE 11 reports.

They’re encouraging residents to check their backyards for standing water.

“Making sure that if there are tarps collecting water, buckets, any sort of pails, dump them out,” Molly Nee told the station. “Make sure you’re not creating your own mosquito issue in your own yard.”

There are 51 different species of mosquitoes in the state, but only 15 of the species bite humans.

Guess that’s one weak ray of sunshine in an otherwise gloomy seasonal outlook.

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