High water tables grow concern for planting season

CENTRAL CITY, Neb. (KSNB) - As the last weeks of winter approach, the planting season is starting to creep into the minds of farmers. Those along the Platte River are still dealing with the effects of high water tables. There were some places in fields where the water tables were so high that pools of water formed and it killed off some of the crops. Now farmers are afraid they are going to have to continue to avoid those areas into this year's planting season.

With a wet season and high rivers, the water tables in some areas of central Nebraska are making some farmers concerned for planting season. (KSNB)

In Merrick County, the water levels are right to the bottom of the ditches. The wet spots that killed crops in the summer are still visible.

“We work on drainage as much as we can,” Farmer Eric Prusa said. “We try to keep all the drains clean and to let it go off but when the groundwater a couple feet below the surface there's not much you can do.”

Prusa has been farming just west of Central City since the early 2000's and he said this is the worst he has seen it. He hasn't been able to do his fall work since the ground hasn't fully frozen.

“It could potentially push us back. I don't look to start as early this year planting just because of the way the soil is. I want to make sure the soil is fit this year and not going to push it. I hate digging things out of the mud,” Prusa said.

He started planting in mid-April and didn't finish until June. There was a sense of urgency when his team was finally able to get out and work.

“Mentally it was a challenge. You want to do the best and be out there and make things grow but you deal with the hands you're dealt,” Prusa said.

Extension educators said this season could have similar issues to last year.

“You can go ahead and plant because the conditions are sufficient but if you have a really high water table and you get additional rain on top of that then it can get too wet for the crop itself,” Adams County Extension Educator Ron Seymour said.

Prusa has crop insurance that helped pay for the lost yield. But he hopes he will be out in the fields sooner rather than later.

“We're glad to have the safety net but it's very important but every farmer would rather grow a crop and have good prices,” Prusa said.

He hopes with the delay in their planting that more of their crops will be able to survive. But they are hoping between now and when planting is set to begin that the weather will start to cooperate a little bit more.