Early August rainfall could be a blessing for crops that were planted later than usual, area farmers and agronomists said this week.
The first week of August in southwest North Dakota — typically hot and dry — was defined by heavy rains, daily showers, early-morning fog and below-normal temperatures.
It’s not exactly the type of weather farmers like to see — at least in a normal year. But this has not been a normal growing year.
Heavy spring rains meant everything from spring wheat to corn and sunflowers was planted later than usual. However, that setback means the August rains could be great for the crops that are a little behind.
“It’s actually a perfect rain for the fall crops, the corn and sunflowers,” said Ben Kuhn, who farms with his father, Jeff, south of Dickinson. “There’s a lot of later wheat in the area that’ll make a heck of a crop now.”
The Kuhn farm is just south of the Dickinson Theodore Roosevelt Regional Airport, which has recorded 2.48 inches of rain this month, according to the National Weather Service.
North of Regent, Cyrus Hartman said the rain came at a good time for broadleaf crops and grains planted in lighter ground.
“It was getting pretty dry,” in the sandier ground, Hartman said. “Some of this heavier stuff up in our area really didn’t need anymore. But you take some of the good with the bad.”
Rural areas near Regent and Rhame had huge rainfalls reported earlier this week, according to the National Weather Service.
Hartman said land he farms northeast of Regent missed out on some very heavy rains, but said he had heard farmers report up to 5 inches in some places near where he farms. The city of Regent has received 2.36 inches for the month, according to the National Weather Service.
Patrick Ayd, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Bismarck, said the Rhame area received 5.65 inches of rain from Tuesday night into Wednesday morning.
While wheat can benefit from the late rain, it still likely won’t mean much in the grand scheme, said Patrick Carr, an agronomist at the NDSU Research Extension Center in Dickinson.
“We planted some wheat really late here and it’s far enough along that this rain, in terms of really impacting the yield of that crop or quality, it’s not going to do too much.” Carr said. “I’m not speaking for farmers, but I’m saying we planted some of our stuff awful late and it’s awful far along. So we may be an anomaly. But that’s what I’ve observed.”
Carr said the rain has caused some grain crops to lodge, or lay down. The same is happening for area farmers where spring wheat or durum is heavier.
Chris Binstock, an agronomist for CHS Inc., said the rain will undoubtedly help the late corn, sunflowers and bean crops but could cause problems for wheat that is in different growing stages — especially the areas that received as much as 5 inches.
“You might see a little bit more disease prevalence out there with the spring wheat,” he said. “With the humidity in the air and the cool, damp mornings, there’s more of a chance of that happening.”
In terms of precipitation, Dickinson is still far off the monthly record of 5.55 inches set in August 1954. The airport has reported 2.48 inches so far this month. However, Ayd said areas like Bowman and Rhame — where professional records are not kept — may have already broken their monthly records if Dickinson’s record is used as a gauge.
Ayd said the forecast appears to be settling down with a return to normal temperatures and precipitation in the forecast.
“It looks like this wet pattern we have is not going to continue the rest of the month,” Ayd said. “I think we’ve met our quota for rainfall here on the earlier end of the month.”