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Ground thirsty for storm

Experts say a predicted snowstorm this week could be critical to soil moisture for spring planting and winter wheat. Jack Davis, economics field specialist at the Mitchell Regional Extension Center, said the storm will not delay planting this yea...

Experts say a predicted snowstorm this week could be critical to soil moisture for spring planting and winter wheat.

Jack Davis, economics field specialist at the Mitchell Regional Extension Center, said the storm will not delay planting this year by much.

"It seems like planting is late because of how early everything was last year," he said.

The spring wheat planting isn't late, but is getting close to it. Farmers have plenty of time to plant row crops, like corn and soybeans.

And the moisture will be more than welcome, Davis said.

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"Everything is going to help at this point," he said. "It's not going to be enough to replenish the soil moisture from the deficit we had last summer and fall, but it should help to get a good start to our spring crops."

Farmers will likely start planting toward the end of April, because they need about 50-degree soil for many crops, like corn. Davis said low soil temperature is the biggest challenge next to the drought. He said soil temperature is the coolest it has been in the last two years.

Davis said ranchers will also benefit from the inch of moisture predicted over the next two days. Pasture areas and hay fields will likely start greening up and some rivers will recover depth, but most of the moisture from this system will probably soak right into the ground.

"There will not be much runoff for stock dams or lakes," he said. "A lot of the grasses in eastern South Dakota are cool season grass and didn't get moisture October through March, so if it can catch up in April and May, that will really help that grass production."

Ranchers whose cattle are calving now will have to work a little harder over the next few days to keep calves and calving mothers warm and out of the elements, Davis said.

Bob Fanning, a plant pathology field specialist at the Winner Regional Extension Center, said winter wheat is much later in development due to a lack of moisture. He said the predicted moisture will be a blessing.

"A lot of winter wheat growing in the area really, really needs moisture really bad," he said. "Snow, rain, anything will be welcome for the winter wheat."

Much of the wheat Fanning has checked on in area fields is still alive, but is behind in development. But even 1 inch of moisture will be a help toward a good crop.

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"A good inch will help tremendously to get us started," he said.

Related Topics: WEATHERAGRICULTUREDROUGHT
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