Aug. 3—MITCHELL — With temperatures scraping triple digits Tuesday, farmers in the Mitchell area had their eyes on the skies with hopes for an additional shot of moisture to help get their corn crop over the top for the 2022 growing season.
"Most of our guys have corn pollinating right now, either it has been in the last week or is doing so right now, so now is a crucial time," said David Klingberg, executive director for the Davison County and Hanson County Farm Service Agency offices.
As the corn growing season crosses the halfway point as the calendar turns to August, producers in the area are looking primarily for two things: a little less heat and a little more moisture.
Temperatures in Mitchell reached 107 degrees Tuesday — with other area towns like Menno reaching higher.
The National Weather Service in Sioux Falls reports that Mitchell received 2.52 inches of precipitation in July, which is up 0.16 inches from normal, but has received only 8.83 inches of precipitation since Jan. 1, which is down 3.96 inches from normal.
Though Mitchell is down on precipitation from normal for the year, Davison, Hanson and McCook counties are only designated as abnormally dry, while counties to the south are experiencing some form of drought. This week, 34% of the state is experiencing some form drought, down significantly from over 90% at this time last year.
"We got just short of two inches (recently), and that is really good news for our guys, but the heat doesn't do well for pollination," Klingberg said.
While the shot of rain should help farmers get through the pollination phase, crops are generally a little behind where they usually would be on average, both in the region and throughout South Dakota.
The United States Department of Agriculture crop progress for South Dakota update dated Aug. 1 reported corn silking at 76%, which is behind 81% at this time last year, but close to the 77% yearly average. Corn doughing is at 12%, well below the 21% of last year and the yearly average.
"I would say they might be a little behind last year," Klingberg said. "We got a good start with planting, and we were actually ahead of our planting, but the ground stayed cold and that put us behind with our germination. And we were a bit dry early on. It was quite concerning with drought concerns in April and May, but we got a little moisture that pulled us through."
While the USDA report indicates overall South Dakota soybean blooming is at 73%, below the 82% from last year and the 78% average, Klingberg said area soybeans are less behind than the corn.
"For some reason with the crops I've been looking at, soybeans are less far behind. That doesn't mean they're where they should be, but they're less behind than the corn is," Klingberg said. "But they really need their drink in August. We sure could use some moisture to fill out those pods and produce a good crop."
Lack of precipitation has not been as big a problem as it was at this time last year, Klingberg said, reflecting the generally easing drought conditions throughout the state. But high temperatures, winds and thirsty crops can all impact soil moisture.
"Last year was worse. It's hanging in there, but (crops) soaked up that two inches really quickly, and so now our crops are using that fairly quickly. But we didn't have a lot of subsoil moisture to begin with because of April and May when we were behind on moisture," Klingberg said. "We're going to use that up with these 90 degree days."
The winter wheat harvest in the area has mostly wrapped up, he said. Statewide figures show 77% of winter wheat harvested, which is above the 74% but below the 82% of last year.
The hay crop has also been acceptable so far this year, he said, and pasture land remains in relatively good condition considering the early lack of moisture.
"It's probably close to average. The guys might have gotten a little less than average due to the spring rains that didn't quite happen, so they were cutting alfalfa and not getting much, but some have gotten a second and third cutting," Klingberg said. "And pastures seem to be hanging in there with the rains we've received. They were looking dry early like the rest of our crops, but they seem to be hanging in there for the moment."