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SD Drought To Bring Long-Term Problems

July 23, 2012, 7:06 AM by Lindsey Branwall

SD Drought To Bring Long-Term Problems

South Dakota is currently in a severe drought. Halfway thorough the summer farmers are ditching full fields of corn and ranchers are selling cattle they can't feed.  But the state could still face problems after the drought subsides.

The drought South Dakota is in today began last fall.

"We had dry conditions last fall, so... We didn't get moisture back into the soil last fall so we had some dry soil leading off the year," State Climatologist Dennis Todey said.

Todey is also part of South Dakota's drought task force, which meets for the first time Monday. He says a dry fall, spring, and lack of rainfall throughout the season are responsible for the sea of brown some South Dakota corn fields have become.

"You start running out of moisture in the soil. The corn will do okay for a while but when it runs out of water, that's a point it just says, 'okay, I'm done,'" Todey said.

Missing the high amount of water needed during the tasseling period of corn growth is the reason for this season's high yield loss, but all isn't lost. The soybean crop in the state still has hope.

"For soybeans, they can still recover; they don't have that one critical phase. They have some ability to recover and can recover through much of August," Todey said. 

But far-reaching models say that may be a long-shot.

"It could very well be until the fall before we start seeing recovery," Todey said.

Recovery in the form of rain may not come until the season's change.  But that will give the state a chance to get out of the same dry spot next summer.

"If we have dry soils going into next year, it’s not a guarantee we'll have another bad year next year.  But it does raise the level of risk," Todey said.

While next year's soils are a point of worry for farmers, Iowa, Illinois and Indiana are the nation's top corn growers, and are in a drought worse than South Dakota. The combination of yield loss between all the states will cause a strain on consumers too.

"It's having a big impact on corn, soybean prices because of the marketing going on.  But there's also a very widespread impact other than the current drought,” Todey said.

While rivers such as the Big Sioux and other water sources are low this year, Todey says that water supply isn't something we have to worry about during this seasons' drought.

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