Outlook: Moist soil conditions good for planting

Farm Forum

BROOKINGS – Precipitation events continue to ease drought issues in some areas of South Dakota, while others are ongoing, says Dennis Todey, SDSU Extension Climatologist.

“The issue of easing versus continuing drought is one of location in the state,” Todey said. “Eastern locations have seen some improvement throughout the spring while western areas still have serious drought issues.”

Todey says rainfall from the week of May 6 and continued timely precipitation throughout the spring has improved soil moisture conditions in the east. However, some soils are still dry, particularly deeper in the profile.

“The moist, but not wet, surface soils have made for good planting progress during the last two weeks,” he said.

He adds that the quickly warming soils and limited run-off from precipitation events continue to indicate that surface soils are not excessively wet in most of the row crop areas.

“Western South Dakota and some locations along the Nebraska border are still in widespread D3 or extreme drought on the U.S. Drought Monitor because of little recovery from last year,” Todey said. “This is reflected in very dry soils and limited surface water like ponds, dug-outs, streams, etc.”

Recent precipitation and snowmelt runoff has not been enough to substantially reduce the soil moisture deficits built up last year in the worst areas, says Todey.

“In northwestern South Dakota there has been only limited precipitation this spring as most of the storm events have bypassed the region,” Todey said. “Most of the northwest has totaled less than 2 inches of precipitation over the last 90 days while areas in southeastern South Dakota have received 6-8 inches.”

Updated longer range outlooks

The new long range outlooks and Drought Monitor outlook align with current conditions, says Laura Edwards, SDSU Extension Climate Field Specialist. On the drought outlook map the eastern quarter of the state is categorized as “Improvement Likely.” The rest of the state in included in “Some Improvement” category.

“The difference lies in that the current precipitation event has the better chance of improving short-term drought conditions in eastern South Dakota,” Edwards said.

Throughout the rest of the state chances for precipitation are less in the near term and looking ahead to the summer. The new long range outlooks include better chances for below average precipitation in far southwestern South Dakota into mid-summer. Coupled with the better chances for warmer than average conditions throughout the summer, Edwards says the chances for drought recovery are reduced.

She says that ongoing drought conditions at some level are quite likely throughout much of the western part of the state.

“Crops will have more chances to experience stress with warmer conditions. Rangelands that are stressed from last year’s drought will struggle to recover,” she said.

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