Despite recent rain, NDSU Extension says drought situation is dire

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Data from the last 100 years shows this is one of the worst years for drought, if not the worst.

This is one of North Dakota’s driest years on record, creating a host of issues for producers. Central and western North Dakota saw rain this weekend, but to what extent will it make a difference?

For this week’s Ag and Energy Insight, we explore how North Dakota farmers and ranchers are living off of scattered storms.

Burleigh County Extension Agent Tyler Kralicek says North Dakota needs is a deluge “Well hopefully it’s gonna be wet and guys can’t get into the field because it’s too muddy,”

“If you look at the data from the last over a hundred years it is definitely one of the worst, if not the worst. You look at the annual rainfall that we’ve had, one of the figures was from last year deficient at least ten inches of precip going into this year. It is definitely a huge concern if you look at where our drought is. You look across the state and we’re close to 90 percent [counties] that are considered drought. It is a very dire situation,” explained Kralicek.

To meet insurance deadlines, farmers are getting their plants in the ground with enough time for them to grow.

Washburn farmer Joseph Sheldon grows spring wheat, corn, soybeans, and pinto beans.

“During all of this drought we’ve taken the attitude of if ground conditions were adequate and moisture was adequate would you be planting, and if the answer is yes then we should be planting,” explained Sheldon,” explained Sheldon.

Just like the rain has been spotty, crops are emerging inconsistently in fields.

“It was very uneven and spotty, a lot of the hilltops were bare, a lot of the low ground is growing where we either had the water sat or snow banks over the winter,” said Sheldon.

For cattle ranchers, having enough feed is the biggest issue.

“The pastures are way behind and the hay crop is way behind, and we’re coming off a short hay year last year too, so compounded those problems aren’t helping the issues at all,” explained Sterling farmer and rancher Lucas Lang.

Lang hasn’t even taken cattle out to pasture this year. He has just been supplementing them with hay. The high demand is causing a major uptick in the cost of hay from 50 dollars per bale to up to 80 dollars a bale.

“We’re gonna end up dry lotting some cows, trying to buy some hay for them to save on our pasture. We’re gonna end up culling probably some good cows that don’t deserve to be culled, but you know that’s the way it goes. You gotta try to manage the resources as best as you can too without overgrazing and over-stressing your pasture,” explained Lang.

Between the extreme drought and the effects of the pandemic on tractor parts availability and rising input cost, this year is shaping up to be one of the most challenging years ever.

“Visiting with some of the older farmers in the area, no one has seen anything like this, I think you would have to go back to my great grandfather in the dirty thirties to experience something like we’re experiencing today,” explained Sheldon.

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