Weekend rain “an absolute life saver” for area farms

Weekend rain “an absolute life saver” for area farms
Published: Aug. 8, 2023 at 6:51 AM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - A month ago, Jeff Thompson told Dakota News Now that a drought in May and June meant he and his fellow corn and soybean farmers in eastern South Dakota would need a big weather rally in July just to salvage a normal growing season.

The rally came, but not until the first weekend in August.

In football terms, farmers needed a Hail Mary these last few days of the corn-growing season window, which is right about now. They got one with a massive, eight-hour long touchdown of rain on Saturday afternoon and evening.

Monday morning, Thompson was standing in corn stalks much taller than him, he was grinning from ear-to-ear.

“To get a rain like that in the first part of August is a game-changer for farmers,” said Thompson, who is a South Dakota Soybean Association board member.

Game-changer is one term. Then, there is the way fellow farmer and South Dakota Farm Bureau president Scott VanderWal put it.

“Yes, the rain — there was anywhere from two-and-a-half to four-and-a-half in some places here around Volga,” VanderWal said Monday. “It was an absolute life saver for the crop.

“With this rain, we can say it will be an average to good year, at least. There are some farmers that didn’t get rain in time. I know there’s some corn that’s probably past help in some smaller areas, but I’d say most of the eastern half of the state will be mostly helped by it.”

It’s been a season of mood swings. An oppressively dry May and June. Then, a sliver of hope with some late June rain. The first three weeks of July provided cooler-than-normal temps and some strings of light rainfall to provide hope.

Then, a heat wave in the last week of July that had the season on the ropes.

”A week ago, plants were white,” Thompson said. “Just, the thought (was), ‘put it out of its misery. It’s going to die here in another couple days. It didn’t have too long to go. It would’ve really gotten bad.

But the knockout punch never came. Instead, a counter. Three inches of rain poured onto Thompson’s fields from 1 to 9 p.m. on Saturday, with a smattering on Sunday. So, how are the plants looking now?

”The corn is filling the kernels up,” Thompson said. “The beans are setting the pods. They’re blooming. It’s time to finish the crop out. Some things are already determined, and we’ve probably take a little bit of a hit. But, at least we can fill out what we got there to start with.”

VanderWal, who farms near Brookings, said Saturday marked an a-maize-ing turnaround for all farmers in the region.

“The agronomists say that 40 to 50 percent of a corn yield is determined in the last 30 to 40 days, which is kind of where we are now,” VanderWal said. “So, this rain will carry us a long ways, maybe almost to the end. But it would be nice to have another inch or so in the next couple weeks.”

Thompson said cooler temps — like the 70′s and lower 80′s predicted for much of this week — will help, as well.

But the picture is getting clearer, and in what was looking like a potentially well-below-average year of profits, Thompson now projects yields and revenue should come out average, and even above average, if those temperatures remain mild.

The soybean season has quite a longer ways to go, both Thompson and VanderWal said.

“They’ve been a little slow, in my opinion,” VanderWal said. “Slow-growing, at first, but the look pretty good. They have a long ways to go, so with that rain, that’s going to help the soybeans tremendously — probably a lot more than the corn.”

The only bad news to really come out of this recent rain rally is market prices have gone down. But, the good news out of that is Thompson and his fellow farmers will be able to sell more bushels than expected after a slow start. He won’t need insurance to cover anything this year. That wasn’t looking to be the case just a week ago.

“Like my grandpa always said — we get a rain like this and he’d always say “million dollar rain,” and as a kid, you didn’t think that much of it but later on in life, it’s like, yeah, the economic impact of that rain was, you know, a million dollars in the little community type of thing.”