Farmers dust off 2012, look ahead

Farm Forum

The June 27 edition of the U.S. Drought Monitor shows the drought is loosening its chokehold on South Dakota.

The monitor shows that 46 percent of the state is experiencing no drought; 54 percent is abnormally dry; but only 28.6 percent and 5.3 percent, respectively, are experiencing moderate and severe drought conditions.

What a difference six months can make.

On Jan. 1, the entire state was experiencing some degree of drought. Nearly a third of the state was in exceptional drought and the remainder was experiencing moderate to extreme drought conditions.

“Things look pretty good — as good as things can be right now,” said Steve Preszler, 54, who farms 500 acres of corn a few miles southeast of Menno in Hutchinson County. Like most land south of Interstate 90, Hutchinson County suffered some of the state’s worst drought conditions in 2012.

That’s all in the past, Preszler said on June 27.

“Everything’s planted,” he said. “There are a few puddles and drowned out spots, but overall, things are good.”

Like most farmers, Preszler was forced to plant later than usual because of this spring’s wetter conditions, but plants are responding well to recent heat.

“I’ve got some corn that’s nearly waist high already,” he said.

Things looked pretty good at this time last year, too, said State Climatologist Dennis Todey.

On June 26 last year, the Drought Monitor showed that 28 percent of the state had no drought; 73 percent was abnormally dry and about 23 percent was moderately dry.

“At this time last year, conditions were a little worse back then then they were depicted, but we weren’t concerned,” Todey said. “East River had good spring precipitation and the corn was in good shape. Shortly afterwards things started going south in a hurry.”

Todey said he had a gut feeling things weren’t quite right — and then Mother Nature turned off the tap and crops shriveled.

Starting on July 10 last year, the drought monitor showed 100 percent of the state was in some level of drought for 42 straight weeks.

Todey doesn’t think 2013 will be a repeat of last year’s drought.

“Cooler weather has meant that planting and crop development has been later than usual,” Todey said.

With crop development about two weeks behind normal, Todey said farmers should expect a later than normal harvest in the fall and crops that will require more post-harvest drying.

With cooler and drier Canadian air expected for the coming weeks, weather patterns should begin settling down.

“Precipitation should also be slowing down, but not shutting off,” Todey said. “And that’s a good thing.”