Time Running Out for Thirsty Crops, Severe Drought Conditions Set In

Crops in north central South Dakota will most likely end up as silage unless there’s some serious rain soon.

Low amounts of precipitation have plagued most of the state this growing season, but an area stretching from southwest Brown County southwest into Faulk County and portions of Edmunds County is considerably drier than other regions, according to Gared Shaffer, South Dakota State University Extension weeds field specialist.

“Most of it is in the north-central region. Crop-wise, most corn is up and most the beans are coming up right now. So they’re definitely in the need of water,” he said.

According to the latest drought monitor map from the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued on June 8, 11 percent of the state is in severe drought. That area is concentrated in the north-central part of South Dakota. Overall, about 80 percent of the state is listed as abnormally dry or worse.

“I’m guessing a lot of corn will go to silage, and that means they’ll chop it down for feed and not do anything else. There’s alfalfa that’s barely even cuttable for the first cutting. Corn is starting to curl leaves a little bit. So we’re going to see heat stress there as it gets to 100 degrees. Prairie grass is suffering and probably won’t be able to be hayed this year,” Shaffer said.

Many farmers are already starting to bail their spring wheat crops, he added.

Corn is able to endure hot and dry conditions better than soybeans, but will still need rain soon to bounce back, he said.

Faulk County farmer Slade Roseland estimated that without a substantial amount of rain in the next 10 days, his corn, soybean and wheat crops will die of thirst.

“Our corn and soybeans are at a critical time where they need rain real fast. Our small grain, like spring wheat crop, is already too far gone. So we’re at the point where we’re making decisions on whether to hay it or not,” he said.

Travis Tarver, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Aberdeen, said the Brown County region is about 4.5 inches below the normal amount of precipitation for this time of year. That total, measured from the beginning of the year, is 7.95 inches, he said.

Tarver said the Walworth County area is 4.3 inches below the normal 6.9 inches of precipitation for this time of year.

Unlike Potter County to the west and Spink County to the east, Faulk has no major water source running through it. Those near the Missouri and James rivers can tap into them for irrigation.

“There’s very little irrigation options. Along the river people set up irrigation, but in the general Faulkton area and southwest of the Faulkton area, there’s just really no option for that,” Roseland said.

“It kind of stinks because it’s one of those things where all you can do is just sit and watch,” he said.

Roseland recently traveled to Ipswich, Highmore and Aberdeen and compared those crop conditions to his own.

“Everybody is bad, but nobody else is a bad as us,” he said of the dry conditions.

If the crops fail this season, crop insurance will help. But Roseland also raises cattle, and the cattle market has a bleaker outlook.

“Crop insurance will help the grain farmers, but with livestock there’s no safety net. We’re hoping to scrape by with the grass we have,” he said.

“Obviously the crops are hurt. The ones that are still getting by are obviously hurt, but it would definitely be salvageable to make corn silage. Some of the pastures are probably too far gone for rain to help,” Roseland said.

Source: Shannon Marvel, Farm Forum

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