Minnesota crops are looking pretty good
By Janet Kubat Willette
Date Modified: 08/13/2012 12:52 PM
Up to two inches of rain fell in parts of eastern Minnesota over the weekend, bringing much-needed moisture to thirsty crops.
The National Weather Service also reported that hail fell in Faribault, Freeborn, McLeod, Wright, Watonwan, Hennepin, Ramsey, Rice and Dakota counties.
The service reported that International Falls set a new record for precipitation on July 13 when 2.05 inches fell. The old record was 1.26 inches set in 1921.
The rain came just after the Climate Prediction Center expanded the area of Minnesota classified as abnormally dry or in moderate drought and
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack declared 1,019 United States counties in a drought disaster. That's largest landscape area ever to be be declared at
one-time by USDA, said University of Minnesota Extension climatologist Mark Seeley.
No Minnesota counties are included in the disaster declaration, but there are many areas in southwestern and southeastern Minnesota, places like Lamberton, Windom, Worthington, Pipestone, Spring Valley, Preston, Houston and Rushford, that are at roughly half their normal rainfall since June 1.
Seeley said in relative terms, Minnesota crops are looking pretty good compared to other states. And continued timely rainfall is going to be
important to maintain that yield potential.
"Mother Nature could still rescue us, that's for sure," Seeley said.
In its weekly weather update, Tom Hoverstad, scientist at the Southern Research and Outreach Center in Waseca, writes that "this is the most
critical time for determining yield potential. Stress, especially from drought, can affect yield more now then at any time during the season."
Hoverstad wrote that early planted corn pollinated fine, but that later planted corn was showing moisture stress.
"Rainfall soon would be helpful to get later planted corn through pollination," Hoverstad wrote on July 12.
"The critical period for avoiding stress in corn is during the two weeks before and two weeks after tassel emergence, with the most important time
being about eight days after tassels emerge," wrote University of Minnesota corn agronomist Jeff Coulter July 9 in Minnesota Crop News. "Drought and heat stress around tassel emergence can affect the success of pollination and the number of kernels per ear."
Moisture stress affects soybeans less because soybeans will continue to flower for several weeks.
Rainfall will also be critical because warmer than normal temperatures are predicted at least through July 25, Seeley said. After another shot of
temperatures close to 90 degrees through the first part of this week, there may be the prospect for shower activity later in the week, he said.
Seeley said the above normal temperature signal is profound in Minnesota.
July will be the 10th consecutive month of above normal temperatures.
That's quite a run without interruption, he said. In fact, every month except one since July 2011 has been warmer than normal.
January through June 2011 was the first time in 15 years, since the winter of 1996, that five months in a row were cooler than normal.
Also, the fluctuation between wet and dry seem to occur in rapid order in the state. There's a great disparity in moisture across the landscape, occurring in close proximity in many cases, say within the same county, Seeley said.
As for the comparison that people are drawing between 1988 and 2012, he doesn't see it. The total area might be comparable, but its occurring in different parts of the country.
At this time in 1988, Minnesota had extreme drought across south central, central and southwest Minnesota and in the Red River Valley. Iowa had extreme drought across its southern, central and eastern divisions.
Indiana and Ohio were in severe drought and Illinois had extreme drought in the central part of the state.
There are places in the southern United States that are in far worse shape now than they were in 1988, Seeley said.
In a July 11 webinar hosted by the American Society of Agronomy, Emerson Nafziger, a crop sciences professor and Extension agronomist at the
University of Illinois in Urbana and Champaign, responded to the question of whether Illinois is worse off or better off than 1988 like this: "It depends on whether we get some rain or not."
Seeley said it's too early to tell what 2012 will bring.
"We could still recover from this if we turn wet," he said. "The true story of 2012 is yet to be told."