‘It’s struggling, you know’: Growing crops in a South Dakota drought

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NEAR COLTON, S.D. (KELO) – We may have seen some rainfall Sunday, but the overarching theme recently for this area and its farmers has been dry and hot weather.

A crack like this one in the soil is not something a farmer wants to see in their field.

Lauren Soulek: We’ve been having a lot of dry weather this year…

“Yeah we have,” Jeff Thompson said.

Thompson is a corn, soybean and alfalfa farmer near Colton, South Dakota. He says between last summer and this winter, there just wasn’t a lot of precipitation banking up in the soil.

“We went from a cold, cold, dry Spring, you know, so the crop didn’t get off to a very good start, you know, as quick as we’d like to have seen, you know,” Thompson said. “Just getting laid in cold soils for a long time, you know, before it could come up and get going. Then we got slammed with hot, dry stuff, so it’s struggling.”

When it comes to soybeans, they need quite a bit of rain. Jerry Schmitz with the South Dakota Soybean Association says as these plants begin to enter their flowering stage, soybeans need one to one and a half inches of rain per week. After that, they need up to two inches per week.

“As everybody’s aware, we’ve been getting maybe a tenth or two in most cases,” Schmitz, executive director of the SDSA, said.

Farmers have had to step up their own irrigation efforts this year, but Thompson says that is a lot of work. And not every farmer has the ability to do it.

“I’ve seen irrigators start this year earlier than I’ve ever seen them start before and almost continuous running,” Schmitz said. “So, yes, irrigation is extremely important for those that have the ability. For those that don’t, it’s just a matter of watching and seeing what Mother Nature is going to provide.”

Thompson says that right now, it’s just a matter of hoping for a timely rainfall and keeping as best of an attitude as you can.

“Once that seed’s in the ground, there’s not a lot you can do, you know, make sure your weed control program is up to speed so you keep the weeds at bay and just go on with life,” Thompson said.

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