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DRY LIKE THE 1980S Moisture conditions similar to drought year of 1988

The U.S. Drought Monitor map issued Thursday shows severe drought expanding east across southern Stutsman County, shown in orange on the map. Northern Stutsman County is in moderate drought conditions, shown in tan. Yellow represents abnormally dry areas, while red is extreme drought and the darkest area reflects exceptional drought. Courtesy / National Drought Mitigation Center

Reports of some wheat fields yielding less than 20 bushels per acre and moisture totals for the year comparable to the drought year of 1988 have prompted Mark Watne, president of North Dakota Farmers Union, to request federal disaster payments for crop and livestock farmers.

“There have been great efforts to get hay and forage into the hands of ranchers,” Watne said in a press release Thursday. “That won’t fix the financial disaster that is looming.”

Watne said the drought disaster includes parts of three states and is comparable to the 1980s. In 1988, the average wheat yield in North Dakota was 14 bushels per acre, according to the North Dakota Wheat Commission website. That is the lowest on record since 1980. The average yield for the last 10 years has been 41.7 bushels per acre.

“When you have a disaster at this level, insurance is not enough to get you through,” Watne said.

Jamestown’s year-to-date moisture amounts this year are comparable to 1988, according to Daryl Ritchison, interim director of the North Dakota Agricultural Weather Network.

''There have been great efforts to get hay and forage into the hands of ranchers. That won’t fix the financial disaster that is looming.

MARK WATNE, president, North Dakota Farmers Union

In 1988, the North Dakota State Hospital reported 5.28 inches of moisture, while Jamestown Regional Airport reported 6.16 inches of moisture as of Aug. 2.

“This year we’re right about 6 inches,” Ritchison said. “We’re comparable to 1988 but it has been a lot cooler this year so there has been less evaporation.”

Average year-to-date moisture for Jamestown as of Aug. 2 is 12.25 inches. Last year, about 15 inches of moisture had been recorded by Aug. 1.

The lack of moisture has taken a toll on small grain crops in the region.

Crystal Schaunaman, McIntosh County extension agent, said only limited fields were being harvested with yields in the upper teens to 24 bushels per acre.

“A lot of the small grains here got put up for hay,” she said.

Sheldon Gerhardt, Logan County extension agent, said he had heard one report of a field of wheat yielding 30 bushels per acre but thought yields that high could be rare.

“It’s going to be all across the board,” he said.

Gerhardt said the recent increases in wheat prices probably persuaded some farmers to harvest their wheat even anticipating low yields.

“It made guys think twice about putting it up for hay,” he said.

Gerhardt said the Napoleon area received two rain showers amounting to between 2 inches and 3 inches of moisture since the middle of July.

“It was pretty tough until those recent showers,” he said. “Pastures that looked brown are starting to come back.”

The Wishek and Napoleon area each reported about threequarters of an inch of rain Wednesday. Jamestown recorded 0.53 inches.

“It was a typical rain for North Dakota,” Ritchison said. “It did not fall evenly.”

But the rain did fall at an ideal time for row crop farmers with soybeans blooming and corn silking, Gerhardt said.

“August rains are huge for soybeans,” he said. “These rains should have a good impact for soybeans.”

How those recent rains will affect row crop yields is unknown, Ritchison said.

“It’s still dry out there,” he said. “One more good rain could make the corn and soybean crops in some areas.”

knorman@jamestownsun.com

(701) 952-8452

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