Precipitation that fell across much of the state from June 30 through July 7 relieved dry conditions in crop fields and pastures.
High summer temperatures in the 80s-90s across the state continued to accelerate crop progress, causing heat stress to many crops.
Throughout the state, the week-long rain and thunderstorms included some strong winds and hail. Hail was spotty in the west during thunderstorms July 7, but some producers had fields wiped out. In the same way, strong winds hit rural areas and towns in from south to the north in the western regions.
Fall crops in all areas are thriving with the recent, soaking rains, but cereal crops that were flowering during the heat stress may be affected.
Wheat and barley are heading or beginning to head; canola is nearly blooming or blooming and soybeans are beginning to bloom.
In Bowman County, in southwestern North Dakota, rainfall has been spotty, but producers have been glad to see moisture.
“We have gotten rain in a few showers over the past two weeks. It has been spotty and some areas only got a fraction of what other areas received,” said Max Robison, NDSU Bowman County Extension agent.
Coupled with temperatures in the low to high 80s, the fall crops are soaking up moisture.
“The rain made a big difference, especially on corn and sunflowers,” Robison said. “It was a little too late for some of the wheat, however. Guys have to make some decisions about what their best options are if the crop didn’t get the moisture it needed.”
In the eastern region, Randy Grueneich, Barnes County Extension agent based in Valley City, said crops are quickly developing under hot temperatures.
“We have a few dry areas, but most of the county is doing okay for moisture. Crop development is accelerating with the heat,” Grueneich said.
Up in the northwestern region of the state, Kelly Leo, new NDSU Williams County Extension agent, said crops were ahead of schedule due to the moderately dry conditions, and rain has relieved crop stress. Leo and Claire Keene, NDSU Extension cropping systems specialist, reported on crops and pasture in Williams County.
“Williston and surrounding areas received more than an inch since July 3,” Leo said. “This will relieve some of the crop stress, but it may be too late for forage production of cool-season grasses as they have already headed and reached maturity.”
They saw spotty establishment of later planted crops as there was not timely moisture and a very dry planting surface, which led to thin, short stands.
“Stand height of crops is short with decreased tillering in small grains due to lack of adequate moisture,” Leo said.
Driving around the county, she noticed some legumes were not as robust in terms of vegetation as they should be due to drought stress. In addition, high wind days, as well as high temperatures, have contributed to loss of moisture from the soil, plants and water resources.
“This area is still 2.5 plus inches behind normal, so crop yield will likely be reduced for some crops,” she said.
Crops in good-to-excellent condition include: spring wheat, 61 percent; durum, 66 percent; corn, 72 percent; canola, 70 percent; sugarbeet, 97 percent; oats, 61 percent; barley, 63 percent; peas, 76 percent; sunflower, 67 percent; flax, 79 percent; potato, 65 percent; and beans, 64 percent.
Out in the rolling hill pastures in Bowman County, where cattle and sheep are grazing, the recent rains are starting to improve the condition of the grass.
“Pastures are starting to show a little more green. The grass had dried out pretty good before the moisture,” Robison said.
However, pastures still need more moisture. Across the state, pastures are rated 59 percent in good-to-excellent condition, with only 3 percent very poor.
Static water in dugouts and ponds used for livestock needed some fresh water, according to Robison.
Robison has a Nitrate QuikTest, which is a screening tool used to assess whether there is nitrate in standing forage, which can happen in drought conditions. To prepare a sample for the Extension agent to test, producers should provide a representative sample of at least 20 stems by clipping them to ground level, all while traveling in a zigzag pattern across the field.
Water quality can become a problem in drought conditions, which the western half of the state has been suffering from.
Robison, along with most NDSU Extension agents, is able to test for total dissolved solids and sulfates in the livestock’s water source. Too much can cause illness in livestock or death.
“We hope the recent rains will turn these dry conditions around,” he said. “It’ll make a big difference to have a shot of water a couple times a week for the rest of the season.”