Planting season well underway, though farmers hope precipitation is in future

MOTT — After 23 years of farming, Mark Anderson is happy to stick to his “game plan.”

The Regent-area farmer said neither below-average precipitation nor low commodity prices have shaken him much this year. He’s still seeding the crops he’d planned for and said Monday that he’s more than halfway finished.

Though with much of western North Dakota in a moderately dry drought, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s drought monitor, Anderson and others say they can’t help but hope for a little rain soon.

“It’d be nice to get a good rain to settle the dust,” he said. “I think everybody would have kind of a weight lifted off their shoulders if they’d get an inch of rain.”

Most southwest North Dakota farmers are in the same boat as Anderson — about half done with their spring planting while hoping for some moisture to give those seeded crops an early boost.

Garret Swindler, who farms east of Anderson in the Mott area, said the only benefit to the dry year so far is farmers were fighting wet and muddy fields just to get their crops seeded last spring.

He said the moisture left in the topsoil after winter is fine for seeding, but it’ll only be good if planting season if followed by some rain.

“There’s enough moisture there to get the crops started,” he said. “We’re definitely planting deep. … We just have to make sure that seed has enough moisture to germinate and get out of the ground. But you can’t really wait on rain either.”

Duaine Marxen, the Hettinger County Extension agent in Mott, said most farmers he works and speaks with on a regular basis have been in the field for the past couple of weeks, and like Anderson and Swindler, most are well on their way to wrapping up planting efforts. Contending with dry conditions and high winds, however, have made for some challenging days, he said.

“No one here will complain if it starts raining,” Marxen said with a laugh.

Farmers might get their wish this weekend.

The National Weather Service is forecasting some showers for southwest North Dakota this week, with chances increasing toward the weekend and into next week.

That could be a welcome relief, as Todd Hamilton, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Bismarck, said the Dickinson area is already 1 inch below average rainfall for the year.

“We haven’t really had any real significant precipitation in quite some time,” Hamilton said, adding it has been about six months since southwest North Dakota experienced a large precipitation event.

He said conditions are “abnormally dry” throughout the western and central parts of the state.

“We are still early in the growing season now, so there’s certainly potential for us to move out of this,” he said.

Anderson said he has wrapped up seeding his spring wheat and Swindler planned to be finished with it by today. After that, both said they’d move on to other crops such as flax, canola and corn.

Anderson said while some farmers might be trying to “outguess” the weather or the future of commodity prices in deciding what or where they plant certain crops, he’s happy to stay the course and stick to what has worked for more than two decades.

“What looks poor now may be your best moneymaker in the end,” he said. “… I’ve been through these times before. You just seed the crop and cross your fingers.”

Author: Dustin Monke

Former newspaper editor. Now I market the best baked goods and donuts in America. But every once in a while, I write a cool story too.

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