Michigan Farmers Expect Good Yields Despite Drought

Published online: Sep 02, 2021 News Robert Creenan
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Source: Huron Daily Tribune

Farmers in Huron County, Mich., are expecting a decent yield this season despite the area still being classified as in a drought.

As of the end of August, the state's Upper Thumb region was still classified as being in a state of drought, with Huron County being in a moderate drought while Sanilac and portions of Tuscola, Lapeer, and St. Clair counties were dealing with abnormally dry conditions, according to the United States Drought Monitor. The majority of the Upper Peninsula is also experiencing various stages of drought.

The Upper Thumb, along with the majority of Michigan, has been experiencing various stages of drought over the past year, with the entirety of the Lower Peninsula experiencing moderate drought at the end of May.

Theresa Sisung, a field crop specialist with the Michigan Farm Bureau, said the area has ebbed and flowed with drought due to weather patterns over the course of this year. The dry conditions earlier this year were good for farmers planting crops since in years past, the spring and summer has been particularly wet.

“The majority of the lower peninsula has seen rain, but for some reason with the way the weather has been, the tip of the Thumb keeps getting missed with rains,” Sisung said.

The Upper Thumb had previously experienced droughts in 2012, 2015, and 2018, with Sisung saying the 2012 drought having the region in a severe drought.

Still, some farmers in the county are expecting good harvests thanks to some timely rainshowers. Rita Herford, a farmer with Gentner-Bischer Farms in Minden City, said they had adequate rain this summer and things are shaping up to look good when harvest time comes around.

“We’re starting our sugarbeet harvest, those yields are looking good,” Herford said. “Dry beans are also looking good, those should be ready to harvest in the next week. The wheat crop may be a little lower than average, but not terrible.”

Clint Hagen, with Atwater Farms in Ubly, said it was dry early on in the season, but July and August saw very good growing conditions for the area.

“The wheat crop was affected a little,” Hagen said. “We didn’t get as much as we thought. Beyond that, nothing much else. Navy beans and sugarbeets both look like a nice crop.”

Hagen added that the beans planted were in the blossoming stage when the area was starting to get rain again, when it was most critical to get rain.

Because of the drought, Sisung said the Farm Bureau expects to see a below average crop yield for the Thumb area and an earlier harvest because of the stress the crops have been under this season. The rest of the state, because it has gotten more rain, is expected to meet record yields or exceed them.

“Even though it was dry earlier, the rest of the state broke out of it thanks to timely rain,” Sisung said. “We expect the Thumb to be below average while the statewide average will be above.”

For Herford, the harvesting for the various crops can last until mid-November, with the wheat harvested in July, dry beans in June, corn in October, and sugarbeets going on into November.

“We’ve been hit and miss with the rain but we haven’t had any pounding rain,” Herford said. “It’s been a favorable year.”

Hagen said that Atwater Farms is starting to harvest navy beans next week and expects a decent yield from them. Sugarbeet harvest for the farm started back in mid-August and will continue until mid-November.