An extremely dry summer

Kim Fundingsland/MDN Some crops in Ward County are showing stress due to a lack of rainfall but many are doing better than anticipated. An exception is the southern part of the county where conditions are very dry.

The Minot region is dry. Statistics, struggling crops and poor pasture growth prove that. While much of Ward County is drier than normal, it is the southern portion of the county that is feeling the brunt of what is now described as “extreme” drought. Virtually all of the state south and west of Minot is harshly effected.

Gary Urlacher, Dakota Quality Grain Coop in Parshall, has seen his area go without rain for more than six weeks.

“We definitely need moisture. A lot of damage has been done already,” said Urlacher earlier this month. “We don’t have half the crop that it was last year, probably 20-30 bushel wheat.”

In the Minot area crops are suffering a bit from lack of rainfall but it could be much worse. Rainfall has been limited, no question about that, but at least crops have been growing and harvesting is expected. There will be the usual exceptions but, overall, yields are not expected to be very good in what is becoming one of the driest growing seasons on record.

The official rainfall total kept at the Minot International Airport was more than seven inches below normal on July 11 with less than three inches of precipitation recorded since January first. Further south and west the numbers are staggering. Hettinger, which appears to be the epicenter of the drought conditions, had received a mere 1.28 inches of precipitation by July 11, nearly eight inches below average.

The story of the season is the rainfall, or lack of it, over much of the state. In the Plaza area soil conditions aren’t very good. A few miles to the south, at Parshall, it appears to be much worse.

“Basically we’re all over the board. Crops planted early look better than those planted later,” said Ted Warehime, Plaza-Makoti Equity Elevator interim manager. “Estimated yields are maybe 10-35 bushels per acre for wheat. That’s probably good compared to what we thought we were going to get earlier. A shower would help. By no means is this a bumper crop.”

“What crop doesn’t matter. Everything is struggling,” said Urlacher.

On the south side of Lake Sakakawea crops are in very tough shape. Barley is considered to be in generally poor condition. Some crops are already being harvested by farmers trying to get what they can from plants withering in the heat in ultra-dry soil.

“Even the peas are rough,” said Jake Smith, Valley Grain Milling, Beulah. “There’s not enough moisture, hardly any peas in a pod.”

Smith said the area is in need of rain but, like many others, thinks it is too late for even a good rainfall to rescue crops in the field.

Pastures have been hard hit too. The grasses necessary to produce healthy grazing for livestock have grown very little this summer.

“Pastures are a little rougher than the crops,” observed Smith.

Urlacher agreed, saying pasture is “terrible, dry and brittle.” In many cases cattle are trampling down more grasses than they actually eat. Rain would help but it has been spotty to none over much of the affected area of the state.

“Early moisture helped the grass come on pretty good in the Plaza area,” said Warehime. “Grassland hay isn’t too awful bad. It isn’t great by any means. It’s just a typical North Dakota drought.”

At the time there wasn’t any significant rainfall expected over the stricken region seven days out. All the while temperatures were expected to soar, running several degrees above normal for this time of year. It is not a good combination for growers or livestock producers who will keep watch on the weather and upcoming forecasts in the hopes that the current dry spell will come to an end.