Heavy rainfall will hinder North Texas cash crop

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Planting corn may not be an option for some farmers in North Texas this year.
The year began with severe wet weather that has persisted through March and into April. With Texas in the middle of a drought, you would expect praise for this weather, but some Texans are feeling much different.
“You can’t control the weather, it controls you,” said John Paul Dineen from Ellis County.
Dineen is a dry land farmer, meaning his fields are not supplemented by irrigation, just by natural rainfall.
Dineen Farms, and several others across the Dallas-Fort Worth area, have been forced to delay planting due to the impact from rain and snow. There is a small time slot in which corn, the largest cash crop, needs to be planted and that window closes rapidly.
The previous weather has brought all of Dineen’s crops to a screeching halt. Although the weather has largely cleared up, his fields and many others have not.
Dineen calls the still-damaged areas of his field’s ‘seeps’, areas where water is oozing out of the ground due to all of the rain.
“You can go out and look across the field and you can see areas that are yellow and thin, which is where the water sits. Those areas will not be planted, therefore, the acres will not be complete,” said Dineen.
If corn is not planted early to mid-March, there is a great risk of the crop not being mature during the really hot and dry months of summer. Corn is one of the least resistant crops when it comes to drought.
“As far as corn, we are now 30 days late planting. We like to plant by March 1, it is the general rule of thumb,” said Dineen.
In farming, there is a “sweet spot” for planting corn and that time has already passed. Every day that passes, pushes the harvest into the hottest part of summer.
As if the farmers were not already pressed for time, the deadline for prevented planting insurance for corn was April 15.
If they planted later than that date, their insurance and bank loans were affected.
“These farmers are having to make some tough decisions right now on what to do,” said Roger Hall, Texas Farm Bureau area coordinator of field operations.
Most of the farmers have already spent money preparing the fields for corn, which makes it difficult to plant anything else besides Grain Sorghum (Milo).
Dineen will consider planting Milo, but he is weary because of a small insect called the Sugarcane Aphid.
“Last year was the first time the aphid has ever made it this far, they generally stay in the sugar can fields in the South, hence the name,” said Dineen.
The problem with the aphid is that it secretes honeydew that resembles molasses syrup all over the Milo crops. In turn, everything is sticky and the honeydew gums up the machines, making the Milo, in some cases, un-harvestable.
If a farmer does choose to plant Milo, they have to spray their fields to protect them, starting at $20 an acre.
Although these crops will not have an effect globally, Hall said the rural communities around North Texas would be impacted.
“The impact will be on the farmers themselves and in rural communities,” he said. “If the farmers don’t have money to spend the local impact will be severe. Prices are expected to be bad for the remainder of the year.”
With the realization of not making a good yield and the current price of the product, Dineen said he will be lucky if he breaks even.
“That’s the concerning thing, trying to make a break-even crop.”
Lexi Johnson is a public affairs reporter with The 109. Email her at lexi.p.johnson@tcu.edu.