Crops harmed, but could rebound
gh temperature have sprouted talk of drought in Minnesota. Doug Holen, regional extension educator in crop production, said there are certain criteria for drought and west central Minnesota is not at that point yet, although there is cause for concern.
Holen said there are other areas of Minnesota that are doing much worse than this region because this is the first time in the season western Minnesota has been dry, whereas it is the second time for other regions.
Holen said the extremely dry, hot period the region is experiencing affects row crops such as corn and soybeans the most. He said this development stage of these crops is critical for yields.
"The plants have been growing vegetatively up to this point," he said about the corn crop. "It's time to start growing reproductively."
Extreme heat at this time of the year prevents the corn from pollinating and yielding, according to Holen. He said soybeans are also at the stage of flowering and early pod sets and if conditions aren't good enough the plant starts to scale back and lose yield.
"A plant can only produce what it can support," he said.
Holen said that the heat affects areas of the same field differently depending on the type of soil. He said light soil can show signs of drought one and a half to two weeks earlier than heavy soils that hold more moisture.
He said once plants go this long without moisture, the leaves curl and growth becomes stunted to preserve moisture rather than growing rapidly to produce more reproductive components.
Holen said it is difficult to access the economic impact of the heat and dry weather until the crop is finished.
"We won't know full effects until further into fall," he said.
He said the grain was further along in its life cycle and the dry spell's biggest impact was to hasten its maturity and harvesting.
He said farmers are watching the forecast to make decisions about their crops.
"Sometimes you have to be reactive and sometimes you have to be proactive," he said.
Holen said the weather affects the decisions crop producers make about pesticides, fertilizers and the use of the crop. He said if they need supplementary fertilizer on corn, the high heat will probably prevent them from adding it.
"A far as temperatures, rain and wind, we just have to roll with what turns out," he said.
He said wet and cold summers are disease years and hot and dry summers are insect years. He said soybean aphids are going to have a considerable economic impact and grasshoppers may become an economic factor as well.
"Many areas that are experiencing dry conditions had excess water earlier this year," he said. There is still subsoil moisture and the plants ability to access the water depends on root length. He said the real effects of drought are typically felt the second year when the water reserves in the soil are gone.
Holen said the recent weather has been compared to the summer of 2003 and the 1987-88 seasons, but is not exactly like either of those years. The dry weather this year began earlier than 2003 and the 87-88 weather last two seasons.
He said livestock producers are also affected by the high heat because pastures are drying up and affecting their ability to meet the dietary needs of the animals. He said it also impacts the ability to provide adequate water to the animals.
He said the heat causes animals to become more laid back which affects their appetite and ability to produce eggs, milk and total weight in pounds.
"You have to keep them active without putting them at risk," he said.
Holen said not all of the news about the crop in west central Minnesota is doom and gloom.
"At this time, we're not beyond repair," he said about the condition of the plants "A rainfall can be well-utilized by a lot of the crops."
He added that the crops need enough rain to get through the topsoil to where the roots are.
"It would probably take a half inch of rain to make much difference anyplace because of how dry it is," he said.
On a more positive note he said the producers in western Minnesota got a terrific first cutting and pretty good second cutting of alfalfa and hay earlier this year. He said the third cutting is delayed and there probably won't be a fourth cutting of alfalfa.