Quick storm wets roads and fields but crops need more rainby Tim Post, Minnesota Public Radio
Minnesota received some badly needed rain Wednesday. Storms rumbled across central and southern parts of the state dropping as much as an inch in some spots. More rain is forecast through this evening. But weather officials doubt there will be enough rain to help areas of the state dealing with drought conditions.
St. Cloud, Minn. — Dan Roerich runs a 65-cow dairy farm near the central Minnesota town of Upsala. He also has about 100 acres of corn and another 80 of alfalfa, those are crops he raises to feed his cows.
He's a farmer by trade which means he's a weather watcher by necessity.
"I've been checking on the internet weather here, and that's just what I was doing when you called," Roerich says.
The storm that dumped as much of an inch of rain across parts of the state was achingly close to his parched farm fields.
Roerich was hoping for a bit more of the more rain. His rain gauge registered two-tenths of an inch, his neighbors got half-an-inch.
"It's been kind of the story all year so fall, one of these times we'll get her I think," he says.
Roerich says if several inches of soaking rain doesn't come to the area soon, he faces trouble. Parts of his corn field are drying up. His alfalfa has gone dormant, it's stopped growing all together.
"It's do or die, we need some soon," Roerich says.
This is a critical time of the year for rain on Minnesota farms because of the life cycle of the state's major crops.
Right now corn should be growing tassels. If it's too dry, that doesn't happen. The corn can't be pollinated and the development of the ear is stunted.
Soybeans should be growing blossoms. But dry conditions can suppress the plant from flowering, meaning fewer beans at harvest time.
Dan Martens, a crop specialist with the University of Minnesota Extension service, says even with adequate rain from now on, he expects lower soybean and corn numbers come harvest time.
"The rain will certainly be helpful and if we can keep some moisture coming as we need it through the rest of the summer, we can still wind with some crop to harvest," Martens explains. "But the hot weather has already taken some yield away."
Martens says at this point farmers can do more than just hope for rain. He says it's especially important to watch out for weeds and pests in farm fields. Crops are especially susceptible to competition from weeds, and damage from insects, during dry spells.
And as far as the midweek rain goes, it looks like Kentucky bluegrass is the only Minnesota crop to benefit.
"For the most part it was just enough to give the lawns a watering and not much more than that," Martens says.
Pete Boulay, assistant state climatologist, says moderate drought conditions still exist across a swath of Minnesota, from the north west to the east central part of the state. To recover those areas need at least three to five inches of rain.
"This dry spell is taking place in the wettest time of the year and that's bad, and it takes a lot to make up for the lost ground so you really need some very large regional scale weather systems to really put a dent in it," he says.
Boulay says it's highly likely those dry parts of the state will be in severe drought conditions yet this week.
And it looks this rain could be it for a while. Weather forecasters say there isn't much of a chance for additional rain in the next six to eight days.
- All Things Considered, 07/19/2006, 4:54 p.m.