West central Minnesota back in drought conditions; heat taking toll on crops
WILLMAR — Drought conditions have officially returned to west central Minnesota, adding one more challenge to an already challenging year for the region's crop farmers.
There is no doubt that this week's hot weather, plus the persistent lack of rainfall, has had a negative impact the region's corn and soybean crops, especially for crops planted on lighter soils in the northern portion of the county, according to Wes Nelson, executive director of the Kandiyohi County Farm Service Agency office.
"We have gone backwards," Nelson said Friday. "Everyone is trying to figure how far we have gone backwards."
The biggest concern right now, Nelson says, is that the soybeans will not have enough moisture to fill the top pods on the plants. The corn crop for the southern portion of the county, with heavier soils, is expected to bring pretty good yields, but this will likely only be an average crop year, he said.
This Thursday's weekly update to the U.S. Drought Monitor puts the central, west central, southwest and south-central portions of Minnesota in the moderate drought category. Only 14 percent of the state, along the northern border, isn't experiencing drought or dry conditions.
Even before the hot, hot weather, the state's crops were short on moisture. The weekly crop report released Monday, reflecting last week's conditions, showed that 23 percent was very short, 43 percent was short and 34 percent of the state's soil's had adequate topsoil moisture.
Subsoil moisture was rated as 15 percent very short, 41 percent short and 44 percent adequate. None of the state had surplus moisture of any type.
The condition of the crops reflects the moisture levels, with only 10 percent of the corn crop rated as excellent and 46 and 32 percent rating as good or fair. The soybeans rated as 9 percent excellent, 45 percent good and 34 percent fair. Beets were rated as 8 percent excellent, 59 percent good and 27 percent fair.
Noah Hultgren, who farms with his family in the Willmar area, noted that the overall crop conditions were still okay, but that the crops on lighter ground were showing the stress.
"We are starting to see the dry conditions take their toll," he said. "The marginal areas could really use a drink."
It's been at least two weeks or more since a good rain has fallen, Hultgren noted, adding that there haven't even been thundershowers this summer.
It's been a year when crop farmers have been at a disadvantage from the start, with winter snows continuing into May, putting planting time two weeks after the normal timeframe and keeping crop development behind all season. Now, the concern is that the first killing frost may come too soon for the delayed plants.
"We really need a late September, almost October 1, frost date to see full maturity of the crops, especially the soybeans," Hultgren said.
As of Friday, Nelson hadn't received any reports of death loss by livestock producers to the hot and humid conditions, although he suspected that producers had lost animals.
The long stretch of hot days means the cattle, hogs and poultry don't put on the weight as expected and milk production drops in dairy animals. It's also tough on the people who work with the animals.
"We needed the heat, but this is too much," he said.