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Southeastern SD considered 'abnormally dry'

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YANKTON (AP) — Farmers in much of eastern South Dakota who are gearing up for spring planting might find dry conditions when they head to the fields.

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The U.S. Drought Monitor shows that the southeastern corner and much of far eastern South Dakota have moved into the "abnormally dry" category — a step below moderate drought.

The reason is a lack of snowfall this winter, State Climatologist Dennis Todey told the Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan newspaper.

"Yankton is the eighth-driest of all time since Jan. 1 at 1.45 inches (of moisture), with similar amounts in surrounding areas," he said.

Todey said he isn't too worried because spring typically is the wettest time of year, and there could be a lot of precipitation into June.

"The overall dryness bears watching for worsening. I am not raising any flags on it yet," he said. "The dry soil is actually a bit of a benefit in that it will warm a little more quickly as we get heat and will allow planting sooner. Then, we need to have precipitation occur."

South Dakota farmers have started planting spring wheat, according to Anthony Bly, soil field specialist with the state Cooperative Extension Service. The corn crop typically is planted in late April and early May, followed by soybeans, he said.

South Dakota farmers intend to plant a record soybean crop this year, according to the federal Agriculture Department. The agency in its March 31 prospective plantings report pegged the state's soybean crop at 4.8 million acres, up 4 percent from last year. Corn acreage is expected to decline 6 percent to 5.8 million acres. That mirrors the national trend, with more farmers turning to soybeans because of a higher demand for the crop.

The lack of snowfall has created another concern in the region — an increased risk of wildfires, Todey said.

"The lack of green-up from the dry conditions and cool conditions makes for higher fire issues," he said. "Warm and windy conditions now will help spread fires easily."

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