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Farmers rush to plant between rains

Rain, low temps cause irrigation uncertainties, delays


Capital Press

QUINCY, Wash. -- It started as drizzle but turned into rain on the east slopes of the Cascades near Quincy.

You could see it from fields just west of town. Only light rain fell in the field but it was enough for Martin Hernandez to quit planting lima beans for a couple of hours.

His boss, farmer Terry Lubach, explained it's not worth running the planter when soil begins to mud up on the press wheels because it takes too long to clean them to get going again.

"Dirt clods up on the wheels and then you don't get uniform planting depth," Lubach said.

Lima bean seed is planted just an inch deep, and there isn't much room for error.

It was May 25. Lubach had begun planting lima beans just four days earlier. He was about halfway through planting 500 acres.

"It's been like this," he said. "You plant a day or two and then it rains and you wait for it to dry out."

Still he figured he was only a day behind schedule.

Lubach had planted his corn but it needed heat to grow. His rill irrigated wheat was just starting to head. His onion seed was at candle stage, but he said he would be planting dry beans, black and some red, until the Fourth of July. He wasn't sure about planting sunflowers.

"This is the coldest spring we've ever had," he said.

Heavy rains around May 19 and 20 left many Eastern Washington farmers idle waiting for fields to dry. Some growers in northeastern counties gave up planting field crops by May 29, according to a National Agricultural Statistics Service report.

Cool, wet weather caused some producers in southeastern counties to file for prevented planting relief at Farm Service Agency offices, NASS reports stated.

The cool and wet caused irrigation uncertainties. Spraying for wheat rust was "extremely behind" in Walla Walla County and was an "ongoing battle" in dryland and irrigated fields, NASS said. Snow mold was a concern in northwest Lincoln County.

In Franklin County and elsewhere baled hay was rained on but most harvest so far was for green chop. Stevens County alfalfa showed excessive weeds.

Only a few fields in Western Washington were dry enough to plant sweet and field corn, NASS said.

Mark Brown, pilot at Quincy Flying Service, said he's about a week behind in spray work due to the weather. The delay will allow more weeds in dryland wheat fields, he said.

A big concern, he said, is rain and wind potentially causing wheat rust to take off.

If that happens thousands of acres will need to be sprayed in a matter of five or six days, he said.


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