‘We have a big hole to dig out of’: Drought conditions in South Dakota continue to worsen with August heat

KELOLAND.com Original

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The drought has reached the dog days of summer in South Dakota. 

August has been another hot month so far and there’s been little rainfall for many areas of the state. It’s also been one month since KELOLAND News travelled across South Dakota to bring you stories of the farmers and ranchers, who have been most affected by the drought. 

One of those farmers was Karen Mutschler, who farms in McPherson County in north-central South Dakota. Since July 15, Mutschler said her farm has barely received ten-hundredths of an inch of rain. 

Mutschler said many neighbors have started silage cutting and more cattle producers are hauling water. 

“It’s been too long and too hot,” Mutschler told KELOLAND News on Monday. “Every day. It just doesn’t cool down.” 

McPherson County farmer Karen Mutschler stands in her hay field that caught fire at the end of June.

Recovery from drought conditions is still far off, according to Laura Edwards, South Dakota State University Extension’s State Climatologist. Edwards said big improvements likely won’t come until Spring 2022 and the outlook for the start of Fall isn’t looking good either. 

“Odds are leaning to warmer than average temperatures,” Edwards said about the next few months’ outlook. “It might push crops to mature faster.” 

According to Edwards, the north-central part of South Dakota “is probably one of the worst areas of the state and continues to be so” when it comes to drought impact. The latest U.S. Drought Monitor lists McPherson County and much of north-central South Dakota in the D3 or “Extreme Drought” category. 

The latest drought monitor listed the entire state of South Dakota in some type of drought and 25% of the state is listed as “Extreme Drought.” 

Edwards said when the drought monitor lists areas as “Extreme Drought” some farmers and producers can  qualify for some type of agriculture assistance like solar well pumps. 

Mutschler said she would be looking into seeking assistance for solar well pumps and added her corn crop looks the best of all her fields but it’d likely still only produce half as many bushels as a good year. 

“I have the silage cutter lined up for silage for all 400 acres,” Mutschler said. “I’m hoping I’ll get enough that I can at least combine a few bushels.” 

Mutschler said people have started cutting Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) land for extra feed now too. She said the “pastures are still looking tough.”

“I”m at the point now, just get this fall over with and get on to winter,” Mutschler said. 

Edwards said now corn and soybeans are seeing more of the drought impact along with rivers and lakes. She noted the Big Sioux River is at 15% of its average flow. 

“It really is extremely low,” Edwards said. “Water is one of the biggest issues especially for agriculture, for farmers and for livestock.” 

Edwards said the Sioux Falls area has been “the banana belt.” 

“It’s one of the few areas that had above average rainfall in July and so far in August,” she said. 

As the summer starts to wind down, Edwards said major drought recovery won’t likely happen in the fall and winter months. 

“The bottom line here is that drought is going to linger with us for quite some time; at least through the end of the year,” Edwards said. “We have a big hole to dig out of.”

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