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Rainfall dampens planting for some

MONTROSE -- It's been one of the wettest years in South Dakota history, but one Montrose farmer hasn't let it rain on his parade. Brian Smith, who farms with his father Paul, said what is the 15th wettest start to the year in South Dakota since 1...

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MONTROSE - It's been one of the wettest years in South Dakota history, but one Montrose farmer hasn't let it rain on his parade.

Brian Smith, who farms with his father Paul, said what is the 15th wettest start to the year in South Dakota since 1895 - according to the National Centers for Environmental Information - hasn't had a significant impact on his operations.

"There's other areas that have had a lot more trouble than us," Smith said. "I think we've been fortunate."

Smith said Montrose avoided some of the rains sustained by Mitchell and Sioux Falls, and he said he's heard fellow farmers in the Beresford area have received particularly heavy precipitation. But only about 10 acres, or 1 percent, of Smith's corn crop remains unplanted.

And while some have dodged the spotty rains, others have standing water in their fields.

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CHS Farmers Alliance Agronomist Adam Squires, based in Alexandria, estimated farmers in the area are falling behind on their planting schedule.

He said 40 to 50 percent of growers are typically done planting their corn crop by this time of year, but Squires guessed about 5 to 10 percent of nearby farmers have their corn in the ground due to the wet conditions.

Still, he hasn't heard of anyone who's complaining about the precipitation.

"It'd be nice if a guy could order it whenever he wanted it," Squires said. "No one wants to turn the rain down. The funny thing about it is come the middle of the summer, we might be needing it. But we sure would like a little break to get that crop put in."

According to the National Weather Service, Mitchell has been hit with 8.93 inches of rain, with 7.7 inches being dumped on the city since March 1 alone. These totals are well above the normal value of precipitation typically received in the city from January to May 10, which NWS calculates as an average of 4.6 inches.

With South Dakota's harvest contributing the fifth-largest corn crop in the country in 2015 at approximately 8 million bushels, according to the United States Department of Agriculture, a small harvest caused by heavy rainfall could limit the country's corn supply. But Smith said the rainfall hardly slowed down his planting schedule.

"It hasn't been terrible," Smith said about the planting season. "It's a little on the wet side, but for us it's gone well so far. We've had worse."

Although he's seen worse planting seasons, Smith said he would have preferred to see the rainfall during the growing season.

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"I'd rather have had the 1 inch rain that we just got in July, but it is what it is," he said.

With the corn planting season coming to a close for Smith, he said he's unsure he will be able to get to his final 10 acres. If the wetness doesn't dry up by May 25, Smith said he'll likely move on and start planting soybeans.

While he has avoided most issues resulting from one of the wettest years in recorded history, Smith said it helps to be prepared for a wet season. On the rainiest days in Montrose, Smith found other ways to pass the time.

"We have livestock, so there's always other things to do," he said.

Smith said he's also prepared for a rainy spring by installing drain tile to remove excess water.

"I guess we're fortunate, but we've been proactive installing tile," Smith said. "It makes it manageable so we can get through those spots and they don't stay wet."

The rainy spring has also had a slight impact on construction projects in Mitchell.

Deputy Public Works Director Terry Johnson said recent rains have caused minor delays on city construction projects, but not enough to put a halt to local work.

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"Concerning construction projects, it slowed things down a little bit, but it seems like we're still out there working, it just takes a little bit longer and is a little bit slower of a process," Johnson said.

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