Local crop outlook a mixed bag

ESCANABA – While many crops are fairing better this summer than last year thanks to higher precipitation throughout the Upper Peninsula, some crops still may be in danger due to a late planting season.

According to Warren Schauer, business management educator for Michigan State University Extension’s Institute for Agriculture and Agribusiness, forages, crops like hay or silage used to feed livestock, are the largest crops in terms of acres in the U.P. Compared to last summer, when drought damaged forage fields, this year’s forage yields have been higher.

“We’re in a much better moisture situation so (forages) were much better than last year,” said Schauer, noting there may be variations in the yields of individual fields.

“You might have some fields that are drier and you might have some fields that have more moisture,” he said.

Forages are a perennial crop, meaning the crops are planted one year and can be harvested for multiple seasons, but they are not the only perennial crops in Michigan. Other perennials, such as strawberries and other fruits, have also experienced better growing seasons compared to last summer when when weather threatened fruit fields across the region.

“We didn’t have that early warm up that was a threat to the fruit crops and our perennial crops (like last year), although we are getting there now,” said Schauer, referencing a recent rise in temperatures in what has otherwise been a cool summer.

Moving into the fall months, Schauer believes that U.P. hay will continue to produce a decent yield into the third cutting.

While forages have had fair to excellent yields, there is concern over this year’s corn yields as we move into the fall months due to this year’s late winter. The late season produced snowfall well into May and caused melt-related flooding in multiple locations across the U.P.

“Corn crops did not get planted as early as farmers would have liked to,” explained Schauer.

Schauer believes if the U.P. experiences a late frost local corn crops could fair well despite the late planting season.

However, the late planting does put farmers at risk of crop loss if an early frost strikes the region.

“If we have a late frost we could have a good to very good corn crop,” he said.