S.D. Drought Tool indicates limited improvement

Farm Forum

The South Dakota NRCS is employing its grazing land drought tool to monitor developing rangeland drought conditions across the state. The tool evaluates precipitation data over a 24-month period to compare expected peak grassland productivity to what is produced in a normal year. In South Dakota peak grassland productivity can usually be determined by the first part of July. Information provided by the South Dakota drought tool can be used to easily modify grazing plans to account for the effects of grassland drought. The tool can automatically evaluate drought conditions using established weather station precipitation data, or precipitation data collected from a specific farm or ranch can be manually entered. The drought tool can help answer questions such as when and how much precipitation do we need to get back to normal conditions? What can I expect grassland conditions to be like if conditions improve this spring and we start to get back to normal? If things don’t improve, how will my grazing land be impacted?

Grassland drought is most affected by soil moisture and precipitation timing and amounts. Precipitation received in April, May, and June is the most critical to this year’s grassland production, however last fall’s moisture is important too. The previous year’s growing conditions also has an impact, and soil moisture deficits in 2012 are reflected in current drought tool results. By evaluating the percent of normal forage expected to be produced, farmers and ranchers can make decisions and adjustments to their operation early in the growing season. Ensuring a healthy reserve and diversity of forage enables optimal grassland infiltration and soil moisture yield and retention.

Your local NRCS office can help with drought planning for grassland and cropland resources. The NRCS SD Drought Tool, step-by-step instruction, and updated contingency planning guidance are online at:

Current percentage of normal grassland productivity (May 1st conditions):

· Aberdeen: 71%

· De Smet: 85%

· Sisseton: 85%

· Canton: 83%

Projected percentage of normal grassland production if May and June precipitation is normal:

· Aberdeen: 82%

· De Smet: 91%

· Sisseton: 91%

· Canton: 83%