Rain on northern plains doesn’t come a moment too soon
Spring has finally sprung around the region, and with some timely rains received last week, many ranchers are feeling pretty optimistic.
“Last week, we had both a slow moving pressure system and a low pressure system come in at the last time, which brought moisture in from the Gulf of Mexico,” said Laura Edwards, South Dakota State University (SDSU) climate field specialist. “Looking at the national precipitation map, we can see precipitation from Texas to the Dakotas.”
Edwards said the system has moved on, and land managers can expect warm and dry weather going into May.
“Based on the cooling sea surface temperatures, it looks like El Nino is moving out, and I think there’s greater than 50% likelihood that La Nina will come into play by fall,” she said.
The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center March 31, 2016 report called for warm and dry conditions throughout South Dakota in the month ahead.
“As we transition from one climate pattern to another, there’s some uncertainty there; however, we have been seeing warmer than average temperatures recently and although we might be a little wet to near average moisture in the Northern Plains right now, we can expect to end up on the dryer end of normal by the summer’s end.”
While the hot months of August are usually a time when farmers and ranchers are praying for an extra shot of rain, Edwards said the timing could be beneficial with less mechanical drying needed for corn and soybeans this fall. As for planting season, she said this shot of precipitation was exactly what many producers were looking for.
“We had been experiencing some insistent dry conditions in the area leading up to this rain,” she said. “Soil conditions haven’t been quite warm enough to plant corn yet, so there aren’t a ton of folks in the fields right now. This rain came at the perfect time to add some moisture without interfering with planting plans. Winter wheat around the region is looking really great, and I think the moisture will only help growth.”
In the last couple of months, the U.S. Drought Monitor had gradually increased the area of Abnormally Dry (D0) in South Dakota, based on dryness, and many ranchers are relieved to see their pastures and hay fields greening up quickly as a result of this much needed moisture.
On the western side of South Dakota, Edwards said most of the region received less than an inch of precipitation; however, several have reported greater amounts of rainfall in the area.
“We received about 1.5 inches at our ranch by Sturgis and 12 inches of snow at our ranch north of Belle Fourche,” said Britton Blair, a rancher from Vale, S.D. “Water is really running up there. The grass will really grow here by Sturgis if it gets in the 70s this week as predicted. It has already started pretty good and turn out will be earlier than normal.”
Josh Geigle, a rancher from Wall reported 3 inches of precipitation last week saying, “The pastures are soggy, but it was a perfect spring rain. The only thing better would have been to get half of it now and the other half two weeks from now.”
Danni Beer, a rancher from Keldron, S.D., said her rain gauge read well over two inches. “It was a slow and steady rain with very little runoff,” she said.
Meanwhile, Edwards said the bulk of the rain fell just west of the Missouri in the central part of the state.
“In Pukwana, Peterson L7 Bar Limousin Ranch received three inches, said Wendy Peterson. “Everything looks wonderful here!”
In Meadow, Brian Flatmoe said, “We received 3.5 inches of rain. It was great for the pastures and hay crops but looking late for much of the farming now.”
Meanwhile, on the eastern side of the state, Edwards said it ranged anywhere from 1-2 inches.
“It looks like we received 1-1.5 inches throughout the Carpenter area,” said Jared Knock, a Willow Lake, S.D. rancher. “Grass and hay are looking great barring a late frost. Alfalfa looks especially aggressive and may mean an early cutting before the first of June.”
“We were very dry and windy in northeastern South Dakota, and with our sandy soil, it was quite a worry,” said rancher Diane Juelfs Mitchell. “We got about two inches in three days, so that is perfect. There is a bit of water standing but it is soaking away. Around here is mostly corn and soybeans, but nobody is planting yet that I know of. Once the sun comes out, I’m sure things will get rolling quickly. This should be enough moisture to get us through until early summer. The calving lots are a big sticky but not bad.”
Looking at surrounding states, Jenny Dewey Rohrich, a crop farmer from Ashley, N.D., said, “We received a total of two inches over the weekend which was much needed! There is very little water sitting even in the low spots; it was such a slow rain it just soaked right in! Grass has already started greening up and looks great!”
In Elwood, Neb., rancher Becky Long Chaney said, “We had a good three inches soak in for new grass growth, and it’s great for pastures! Then we received another two inches of runoff that filled ponds. This is the most rain we have seen in three days since we moved here three years ago! It was beautiful!”
Further south, rancher Debbie Lyons-Blythe added, “We received two inches in the Kansas Flint Hills, and the pastures that we burned are growing a carpet of green grass right before our eyes.”
Moving west, rancher Nicole Hackley reported, “We received just under an inch near Culbertson, Mont. It was a slow rain that stayed steady for thee days. Everything green up overnight it seems like. The pastures that were eaten down seemed to have a lot of new green grass growing in the last couple of days.”
“This truly was a perfectly timed rain for a lot of folks,” said Edwards. The soils were needing the moisture, and it was a nice soaking rain for the region. Unlike Texas, we didn’t have any flooding or drain off because of this extra moisture, and it certainly came at a good time right before planting and grazing season. The forecast shows things will start warming up this week, so I anticipate planting will get underway very soon and pastures will be greening up fast.”