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Platte County hit hard by recent storms, crops damanged

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

    Although recent precipitation means tromping through the mud, few are complaining about the benefit to the rangeland and crop conditions. However, some Platte County farmers are less thankful as they assess the toll that the pre-Memorial Day storm took on their crops.
    Starting the Thursday prior to Memorial Day, Platte County received six to eight inches of rain followed by two heavy hailstorms, according to Western Sugar Cooperative Agricultural Manager Jerry Darnell. Damage to the sugarbeet crops is still being assessed but it has been too wet to get in the fields. Many sugarbeet fields in Platte County were already replanted due to freezes and the flooding rains and hail most likely damaged the replants.
    Wheatland-area farmer Dan Melcher echoed Darnell saying it’s still too wet right now to determine definite damage but he said he checked his fields at one point and “it doesn’t look good.”
    “My best guess right now is we lost all the beets,” Melcher says. “There’s still a chance some might survive but it’s too early to tell.”
    Melcher also grows corn and barley and says those crops survived because they were in early enough stages.
    Grain crops in Slater, south of Wheatland, didn’t fare well either. Slater-area farmer Gregor Goertz unhappily confirmed news of baseball-sized hail in the area. Goertz says his preliminary looks revealed some strips getting completely wiped out.
    “The damage was fairly localized,” Goertz says. “It damaged probably 50 percent of my wheat to some extent.”
    Goertz also reported a small tornado touching down and hitting an abandoned farmstead and power poles. He estimates it was on the ground for about two miles.
    Luckily, Goertz didn’t find any harmed livestock or buildings and says he’s trying to stay optimistic.
    “We’re thankful for the rain,” he says.
    The rest of the state apparently weathered the storm better, according to Wyoming Crop Improvement Association Coordinator Mike Moore. Moore says the biggest concern in the state is delayed dry-bean planting. Bean planting is usually done by June 1, but Moore says the conditions are too wet and he guesses most producers won’t be done by then.
    Wind damage also caused some concerns with crop producers, but Moore says he hasn’t heard of any problems so far.
    “It’s hard to talk too badly about the moisture,” Moore says. “The range and the crops needed it beyond bad.”
    The most recent National Agriculture Statistics Service Wyoming Crop Progress and Condition Report states that less than three days were suitable for fieldwork during the past week and small grain and row crop seeding is behind. However the precipitation brought good news. Topsoil moisture levels were up 31 points above last week and 21 points above last year at 92 percent adequate or better. The publication also reports improved range and pasture conditions at 56 percent good or better. This is up 15 points from last week and 13 points from last year.
    Liz LeSatz is the Summer 2008 intern for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be e-mailed at

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