The lack of rain and abundant hot and windy days has many area crops parched, despite a recent rainfall.
After months of little more than isolated rainfall in the region, much of Wadena County saw rainfall from half an inch up to about .82 inches, according to reports coming into the Wadena Soil and Water Conservation District office in Wadena. To the west in Perham, rainfall was slightly less at just under a half inch, according to the North Dakota Agricultural Weather Network. The Father's Day watering was mostly a soft rain seen throughout the morning and into the evening.
Even so, the U.S. Drought Monitor still lists portions of central Minnesota in abnormally dry or in moderate drought.
Across the board, crop conditions have been dropping for those unirrigated acres, according to data from the USDA. The heat has helped to advance crop development but the lack of soil moisture has those greens gasping for water.
Topsoil moisture was rated at 46% short and just 1% in Minnesota had an abundance of moisture. Corn and soybean conditions have dropped to about 50% in the good range.
The heat's also hit hay farmers and those with cows out to pasture. Many have clipped their first cutting but there's little growth showing underneath. Pastures are already showing signs of stress. Crop conditions as of June 20 showed 0% of pastures in the state in excellent condition but about 49% remained in fair condition.
River beds in the area are showing more river bank than normal. According to the U.S. Geological Survey the Crow Wing River at Nimrod is at 40% of average as of Tuesday, June 21. The Straight River in Park Rapids, just to the north was at about 76% of median average. The Otter Tail River near Elizabeth was about 37% of its median average.
Anne Oldakowski at the Wadena Soil and Wadena Conservation District said she's been monitoring the water levels on the Leaf River near Wadena. Water levels have dropped and the river temperature at the test site measured 84 degrees. She said the river is abnormally low. Temperatures that high are alarming and raise the possibility for fish die-offs.
The Minnesota DNR has asked for the public's help in monitoring area water bodies for possible fish die-offs. Typically the fish will swim to the deepest spots as temperatures rise. But with abundant shallow lakes, those cool spots are going to become crowded.
People should call the state duty officer at 651‐649‐5451 or 800‐422‐0798 if they encounter a large group of dead fish in a lake or a stream (the state duty officer is available 24 hours per day, seven days a week). Calling in a report provides a single point of contact for the incident. An early report also allows timely water sampling or other response actions, if needed. It’s especially helpful to know what fish types and sizes people see in a fish die-off.
Oldakowski also inspects tree plantings in the county and said those too are suffering. She's seen some plantings of red pine, a go-to tree in the area, had losses of 40-60% of plantings, even in low areas.
"We've actually seen fairly good luck with oak," Oldakowski said. These oaks are planted when they are dormant and it seems they've been holding out through these high temperatures better than the pines.
Oldakowski mentioned that many farmers were hit with frost, followed by high temperatures and now the lack of moisture. It seems it's going to be a tough year as we've not even made it to July yet.
"Some farmers have said this is worse than the drought of 1988," Oldakowski said. Still, up until the last two weeks of high temperatures, crops were in good shape.
While our region has been under extreme fire danger for the last couple months, the recent rainfall brought us back to a moderate fire danger as of Tuesday, June 22. The Minnesota DNR continues to place much of the region, including Wadena, Todd, Morrison, Cass and Hubbard counties under burning restrictions, with no open burning. Otter Tail County is in a restricted area with variance approved burning only. Campfires are still allowed under these restrictions.