Like items on a shopping list, drought in the Northern Plains is damaging crops and forage, with no immediate end in sight.
Grassland — check. Spring wheat — check. The driest April-through-June since 2006 in South Dakota — and the driest April-June period ever in some other portions of the Northern Plains — has taken its toll.
Corn is up next. Check. “It’s so short that even cutting for silage is questionable,” North Dakota State Extension Crop Specialist Ryan Buelow said Friday. “The way it’s starting to look now, it’s not even going to make it for silage.”
Buelow, along with South Dakota State Climatologist Laura Edwards, have some stark details about dryness that has become historic. Edwards noted that, in South Dakota, June was the eighth-driest month on record. “What we are seeing is similar to 1936 and 1988,” Edwards said. “We’ve had less than an inch of rain in the past two weeks. And, South Dakota averages around an inch of rain per week in June, so it doesn’t take much to fall behind.”
Edwards shares the concern about potential harm to corn with continued drought. The weather forecast for the next two weeks is mainly hot and dry for the Northern Plains. “Corn in South Dakota starts to pollinate around mid-July. That could be a tough time,” she said.
The impact on the total ag industry is tangible. During a conference call, both experts cited large cattle sales due to ranchers running out of feed. Also, “there’s a big reduction in fertilizer and herbicide sales,” said Buelow.
The opening of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) land to grazing, and later in July to cutting for hay, will help curb livestock feed losses to some extent. Crop losses, though, are a different matter.
It’s also possible that the severity of dryness will expand out of the Northern Plains. “Nebraska is another state under the gun (for dryness) and no surprise, with June rainfall just 39% of average, and the driest June ever since 1950, and second-driest on record,” said DTN Contributing Analyst Joel Karlin.
Is there the potential for the Northern Plains drought to last into another year and become an event similar to multi-year droughts already experienced this decade in Texas and California?
Edwards did not rule out the possibility of a multi-year drought already in effect in at least part of the Northern Plains. “Some would argue that we might actually be in the second year of drought,” she said, referring to how drought was noted in portions of South Dakota a year ago. “So what has happened could be a carryover from the dry season last year.”
Such a development is not certain, though. “We had good recovery from 2012 (drought) the next year,” she said.
Bryce Anderson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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