The cold, wet start to 2018 has local farmers playing catch-up when it comes to planting their crops.
Powell and the surrounding area has experienced two significant blizzards since Feb. 1 and received several days of rain earlier this week, all of which has kept farmers on the sidelines more than average.
Regan Smith grows barley, sugar beets, corn, oats and hay east of Powell. Smith said the abnormal weather has made the remaining time of the essence.
“The windows have been real narrow on when you can get stuff in the field,” he said. “With the weather breaks we’ve had, it’s been two or three days here and there. We just do what we can. The problem is it will switch overnight and we will go from winter to summer. You’ve got to take advantage of every day you can get.”
Smith said the extra precipitation this year has been a blessing and a curse.
“You hate to complain about rain in the desert, but the timing is never right ... It’s one of those things you learn to live with, I guess,” Smith said. “Rain is a good thing — it’s just that the timing is always off.”
Mike Moore, manager of the Wyoming Seed Certification Service, said the abnormal weather creates a pair of problems for farmers.
“Putting seed in the cold, wet soil slows germination,” Moore said. “The other thing that happens at the same time is that it encourages plant pathogens. Sometimes the impact of that might not show up until harvestime.”
However, Moore said the weather has not been all bad for some crops.
“Spring grains — meaning malt barley, oats and spring wheat — actually do fairly well with cool, wet planting conditions as long as you can get them in the ground,” Moore said. “The wet conditions so far have certainly delayed planting, but that might not be a bad thing. Looking at the fields right now, small grain crops are emerging and certainly look nice. In my communications with growers, I think everybody that I’ve talked to has a small grain crop in the ground already — and in a drier spring, they would have to irrigate that crop up, which costs yield.”
Ric Rodriguez farms near Heart Mountain and said the weather has led to delays with planting sugar beets.
“We’re just a little behind right now,” Rodriguez said. “We’re about 55 percent planted as of Monday, which is a bit behind, but we could still have a decent crop if it dries out and gets nice. ... Beets will be behind, that’s for certain, but it’s not like we’re terribly behind.”
Rodriguez added that the weather has had some positives for some crops.
“It depends on the timing of when the grower planted,” Rodriguez said. “There’s a lot of nice-looking barley fields around, but there are some guys that are still planting. There’s going to be some late barley and there’s going to be some good barley. Barley likes cool weather, so the barley that’s up right now is enjoying the weather.”
Fred Hopkin farms a wide swath of land ranging from east of Powell all the way to east of Lovell. He said some areas were more affected by the abnormal weather than others.
“We usually start planting barley March 15, but this year because of the weather and the February blizzard, we didn’t start to plant until March 31 — and then we had the Easter blizzard,” Hopkin said. “That kept us out of the field for two weeks more and we didn’t get going again until April 14. It put us a full month behind.”
Hopkin said his sugar beets were delayed by two weeks because of the weather, but agreed the extra moisture has had some benefits.
“The moisture has been good for crops that are planted because they should begin to grow,” Hopkin said.