You don’t need a rain gauge to tell you how dry it has been the past few months. Central Minnesota is in a severe drought and a pocket of land in the middle of the state is the worst of any.
But if you expect to find area farmers moping and complaining, you might be surprised.
Joe Krippner, who farms about 1,000 acres between St. Cloud and Pearl Lake, is a good example.
As a farmer and a seed salesman, Krippner has seen what the drought has done to the area crops.
“It’s been detrimental to the bean yields, especially those crops on lighter soil. It’s sped up maturity and a lot of crops have failed because of lack of moisture,” he said.
“The corn started out with really good potential, but then a lot of it prematurely died. Things were looking really good in July and we got a shot of rain in August and then nothing.”
To compound the problem, this year’s wet spring kept farmers from getting their crops in early.
“I planted crops the latest I ever did,” said Krippner, who planted beans on some low, wet areas on June 22.
And while last year’s late summer and fall were dry, at least they got into the fields much earlier than this year.
How dry had it been this growing season before this past weekend’s rain?
Since July 1, which is the bulk of the current dry period, Central Minnesota was more than 6 inches short (2.38 inches actual; 8.53 inches average), said Bob Weismann, meteorological professor at St. Cloud State University. He said this week’s drought update from the Minnesota State Climatology Office shows that east from Stearns
County south and eastward have been 5-7 inches short on rainfall since the last week in June.
The Minnesota Crop Weather Report upped the count of topsoil short on moisture to 69 percent of the state.
And while this past weekend’s rain may have helped green the grass, it was too late to help the crops, Krippner said. “It’ll help with tillage this fall,” he said.
Del Fox, who farms about 1,400 acres in the Kimball area, said the rain was a hindrance as he expected to get into his fields and harvest his dry-land beans this week.
“The dry-land beans are pretty much done,” Fox said. “I think the dry land corn will do better.
The growing season this year was not a total loss, Krippner said. “The small grains and hay cuttings were very good,” Krippner said. “Some farmers, the more aggressive ones, got four cuttings. Some had three nice cuttings and the fourth was on the lighter side.”
And Krippner thinks those farmers fortunate enough to have irrigation could end up with “a tremendous corn crop. I never grew up with irrigation but I picked up some land a few years ago with irrigation on it, and it has helped tremendously. It’s a safety net.”
Fox, who has about two-thirds of his acres planted in corn, is expecting a very good crop from his 1,000 acres that are under irrigation. He’s hoping to see more than 200 bushels per acre from those fields. But that comes at a price as irrigation isn’t cheap to run. Fox estimates he spends between $50 to $60 an acre to run his irrigators.
Jim Korman, a Pearl Lake farmer and sales agronomist for Centra Sota Coop in Watkins agreed with Krippner. He also said that two things are needed moving forward for the crop that remains: enough heating units for the crops to dry and a late killing frost. The next full moon is scheduled for Sept. 19, he said, and a killing frost then would be detrimental. But if the frost can hold off until the next full moon, that would be ideal.
Korman said he remembers 1974 when farmers woke up on Sept. 3 and corn tassels were black. He said that year farmers were forced to harvest their corn crop as silage and made piles and piles of it around their farms because it wouldn’t all fit into their storage units.
Korman also said that
Watkins area farmers were dealt a blow to their crops in early August when hail damaged crops in a four-mile radius around town. Those farmers suffered a 70-percent leaf loss, which will significantly reduce their yields.
Krippner recently had a plot day for his seed customers and he told them to keep their heads up. He told them to take soil samples this fall, adjust their plan if need be, apply fertilizers and “keep on keeping on. You never know what next year will bring.”