Drought conditions, high temperatures could threaten corn harvest

Published: Aug. 3, 2023 at 6:14 PM CDT
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ABERDEEN, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - While temperatures are expected to cool off soon, the heat that stretched across South Dakota at the end of July may have already done some damage to corn.

Temperatures reached scorching highs last week, including in Aberdeen, where it reached 101 degrees on July 26th. On top of some very hot days, Brown County has also moved into abnormally dry drought conditions, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

The combination of high temperatures and dry conditions came at a bad time for farmers. Corn was in the peak of its pollination season during the last few weeks of July, and extended periods of heat can depress that pollination, which can affect the quality of the yield.

”Anytime you have extreme heat conditions and low humidity, it always affects the conditions of corn or the potential yield that’s out there. When it’s pollinating or done pollinating, anytime you get into those upper 90s, it stresses not only corn but soybeans and every crop that we have,” said Brown County farmer Craig Schaunaman.

According to State Climatologist Laura Edwards, the hot temperatures were typical for late July.

”We tend to experience all the extremes, and it’s not new to have a heat wave. Still, when we look at summertime temperature records, to get 100 degrees is not uncommon in South Dakota,” said Edwards.

Edwards, however, agreed that the timing wasn’t ideal.

”Just a tough thing on the farming side is that it’s peak corn pollination season, just the perfect week where we don’t want this kind of weather. So, we’ll have to see what that means for how good our corn crop is,” said Edwards.

Schaunaman said his crops might have pollinated at just the right time to avoid the heat, but if the drought worsens, harvest might not be as bountiful.

”Personally, I would say we’re not in a situation where we’re going to have a bumper crop, but we’re certainly, I think, at average crop conditions currently. Now, if it continues, we may lose some of that,” said Schaunaman.

However, it’s the crops in the southeastern portion of the state that Schaunaman has concerns for.

Counties like Turner and Moody have been experiencing D2, or severe drought levels, since June.

”If you hit D2 for four or five weeks, you’re in what I would call a serious situation,” said Schaunaman.

Temperatures are expected to cool down in the next few days, but Schaunaman said farmers won’t be able to tell if their crops were affected by the heat and dry conditions until later in the season when yield checks begin to happen.