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From drought to deluge

Rain saved, boosted crops

Recent rainfall has given area crops a huge boost, reversing what was becoming a very troubling pattern of dry weather leading to drought conditions. Kim Fundingsland/MDN

Much of North Dakota went from worsening drought conditions to very wet in a period of a few days. A growing concern about lack of moisture for crops, particularly early seeded wheat, changed to talk of maybe too much rain.

Indeed, in many areas rainfall recently topped three inches or more as a couple of days of thunderstorms rattled across the landscape. One of the best, or maybe worse hit areas, was centered around Harvey.

“We cover a pretty big trade area between Fessenden and the Anamoose and Drake area,” said Joel Schimke, Harvey Farmers Elevator manager. “The worst of the rain went through an eight- to 10-mile stretch. Rainfall totals from east of Harvey to west of Harvey were from 5 1/2 to 7 inches. Water ran over the tops of roads and washed out some culverts. We got enough rain to last us a long time.”

Sometimes too much rain can cause large areas of fields to wash away. Schimke said that was a problem in some of the lower areas but not real widespread. It did have a few producers shaking their heads though, those who had gone back into their fields and planted low lying areas that were too wet to seed initially due to spring soil moisture.

“Before the rain, the wheat was really struggling and needed some rain,” said Schimke in talking about previous drought conditions. “Now there’s worry about disease in wheat with so much water around.”

Later planted crops, such as corn and beans, were doing fairly well before the recent heavy rains but were in need of additional moisture to give those crops a boost. From that standpoint, the rainfall was exactly what was needed.

“It helps the wheat too,” said Schimke. “It’ll help fill out what was there.”

In the Garrison area, the story was similar as concerns about dry conditions were washed away by heavy rainfall.

“It was pretty amazing that the crops held on as long as they did. Without the soil moisture from last fall, we could have been done a long time ago,” stated Shane Crawford, agronomist, CHS Garrison. “The four to five inches of rain gives up real good potential and the attitudes are a lot better. You can watch the soybeans and corn grow now.”

Jeff Kittel manages the Plaza-Makoti Equity Elevator. Rainfall in that area ranged from 3 1/2 to more than 6 inches over a three-day stretch.

“The rain was much, much needed in our area,” said Kittel. “For the earlier wheat it was probably too late but will stabilize the crop. Early wheat was really starting to get stressed. The later stuff, the row crops, will really perk up and grow. It’s hard to say what it will mean in bushels but the rain will help.”

Drought conditions had yet to invade most of the area north of Minot. Nevertheless, the rainfall was good news for growers. Total rainfall from recent storms ranged from 1.5 to 4 inches from Lansford to Glenburn to Newburg to Bottineau.

“We didn’t get any 6-inch dumps. That was pretty good,” said Wayne Johnson, Border Ag & Energy of Bottineau. “The rain was welcome. We were good because we were still so wet from last year. We were two weeks behind in seeding due to wetness.”

Now, said Johnson, the crops are in real good shape and don’t really need a lot more rain.

“We could use a squirt before harvest, especially if it stays hot,” said Johnson. “All in all, I think we’re okay.”

Wet conditions create an ideal environment for scab to develop in wheat. Because wet ground will likely keep equipment out of the fields, noted Johnson, any fungicide application may have to be done by plane.

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