Drought hitting western areas hard

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While the coronavirus has been grabbing headlines over the past few months, a new problem has reared it’s ugly head for portions of the state.

Drought.

North Dakota is a state divided right now. By water.

Head east and you’re still likely to encounter roads under feet of water, but that all changes as you cross the Missouri River and head west.

A look at the Drought Monitor since early April shows drought conditions spreading across the western portion of the state, with a large section now experiencing moderate drought conditions.

Down here in Adams County things are dry, very dry. In fact, just to the southwest in Hettinger, they’ve recorded around three-quarters of an inch of precipitation for the entire year. That’s around six inches below normal. And the field that KX News visited is a perfect example of what farmers are going through. The owner of this land told us they just recently cut this down and harvested some hay but because it’s so dry, this may be the only time they get hay out of it when they normally cut it two or three times a year.

Jackie Christman’s got around 10,000 acres to keep watch over and says when they do get rain, it’s accompanied by strong winds that just make the moisture evaporate even quicker.

“We have a lot of sub moisture underneath, but it’s really drying out fast with this wind and now the heat and it sucks it up really quick whatever we got,” said Christman.

And that is creating dry conditions not seen in several years.

“In 17, we had a lot of early moisture, and then it just dried up. 17 was really hard and then it got hot, but at least we had the April and May moisture to get the wheat going and then we hay’d all of our wheat and sold our wheat for hay which was really nice, but this year we would not be able to hay it. It’s too short it doesn’t look very good. It’s just not a crop, so yeah in terms of the beginning of summer, this is probably one of the worst ones,” said Christman.

Also adding to farmer’s frustrations was an unusual frost that hit early in May and messed with the plants’ minds, according to the NDSU extension.

“These crops, they were up and they were growing and then we got hit with this frost and it really set them back. You know we already weren’t getting enough rain and then this frost hits it back and everything and then the alfalfa just really isn’t stimulating or wanting to grow,” said Hannah Nordby with the NDSU extension.

And the news doesn’t improve as the latest eight to 14-day precipitation outlook from the climate prediction center shows good chances of below-average moisture.

But just as we were leaving town, a few raindrops started to hit the windshield of our news vehicle. Here’s hoping it’s not too little too late.

The NDSU extension says the dry conditions have created other challenges for farmers, such as when certain types of sprays should be applied to their crops.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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