Drought delays winter wheat planting

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Drought continues its relentless march across South Dakota, as reflected in the U.S. Drought Monitor, released on Oct. 11, a news release from the South Dakota State University Extension Service noted. And the drought is having an impact on the winter wheat already planted and delaying other fields from being planted.

Exceptional drought, the worst category on the map, has grown to nearly one-third of the state's area, a 26 percent increase from Sept. 25. Currently, more than 91 percent of South Dakota is covered in the severe, extreme or exceptional drought (D2-D4) categories, said Laura Edwards, SDSU Extension Climate Field Specialist.

"Last week, the drought map depicted one-category degradations across much of western South Dakota. This week's changes reflect worsening conditions in the northeast. Winter wheat planting is being delayed, and there is poor germination and emergence in many of the fields that have been planted," Edwards said. "Dry soils and very little rainfall have led to very dry soil conditions to start off winter wheat and cover crops this fall."

The month of September was the record driest for several locations in the northeast and central parts of the state, including; Aberdeen, Mobridge and Pierre. In Aberdeen, the total rainfall for the month of September was just 0.01 inches. So far, 0.02 inches have been reported in October. Pierre has had no measurable rainfall since Aug. 12, when 0.01 inches fell. Edwards says the National Climatic Data Center has reported South Dakota as being the driest on record.

"Over the last two weeks, expansions in the three worst drought categories on the U.S. Drought Monitor map in South Dakota reflected these dismal precipitation amounts. Soil moisture is well below normal for this time of year as well, as farmers are concerned about cover crops and winter wheat statewide," Edwards said.

The USDA Weekly Crop Weather Report, issued on Oct. 9, states that 95 percent of topsoil moisture is short to very short, and 93 percent of subsoil moisture is short to very short.

Dennis Todey, SDSU State Climatologist, says that drought is getting worse rather than better and adding much moisture to the subsoil is becoming very unlikely.

"The opportunities for recovery this fall are becoming limited. We were hoping for some relief before winter, but the situation appears to be going the other direction," Todey said. "This will have implications for cropping decisions this fall, and possibly into the spring. Limited surface water availability will be an issue for livestock producers through the winter season."

"We don't see any clear climate signal that this fall or winter will be a game-changer," Todey said. "The drought is so severe and extensive that it will be challenging to make a significant recovery during our winter dry season."

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