ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

COLUMN: Rain is a blessing in southeast South Dakota

BENNETT COUNTY, S.D. -- When you live in Bennett County, S.D., you never wish for rains to stop. If they do, they might not start up again. The rains have been plentiful this year, and I sometimes catch myself wanting sun. But rain is definitely ...

BENNETT COUNTY, S.D. - When you live in Bennett County, S.D., you never wish for rains to stop. If they do, they might not start up again. 

The rains have been plentiful this year, and I sometimes catch myself wanting sun. But rain is definitely a blessing here.
Our soil in southeast Bennett County is sandy loam, and the moisture doesn’t stick around long. There are some real advantages to having sandy soil, but there also are some things to learn. As an outsider moving here from the eastern side of the state, I was amazed at how much water it takes to grow things.
I’ve always been a gardener, but it’s a good thing my husband, Rick, has a sense of when to turn the sprinklers on, or I would let things go too long. Waiting until the soil feels dry might be too late. It can rain an inch, and it’ll be time to start watering the next week.
Sandy soil grows some big root vegetables, though. Things like onions, beets, carrots and potatoes just push the soil out of the way and get big. I’ve had great gardens here, I just have to keep the soil healthy and give it a drink more often than it might need.
My favorite thing about sandy soil is the lack of mud. Not that there is never mud, but it quickly goes away. It’s amazing how fast the guys are back in the field after a rain. The corrals might be sticky for a few days, but I never sink in above my boots. Three days before we branded our cattle, we had about an inch of rain, and on branding day, the lot was just dry enough that dust didn’t fly.
Sandy soils make for great calving lots. We calve on a grassy lot with plenty of space, so the cows aren’t crowded and don’t stomp out the grass. The moisture sinks through the grass quickly, and the calves usually aren’t born in the mud. The exception this year was one late-calving heifer who just had to pick the one water puddle in the corner of the pasture to have her calf.
We don’t have to keep our horses shod with such sandy soil, either. We actually have very few rocks - a bonus for kids who have ever had the chore of picking them. The pastures have a little extra cushion, and even the roads are softer than most.
Yes, then there are the roads. My sister says we don’t have gravel roads, we have dirt roads. This time of year, I know she’s right. We had about an inch of rain recently, and coming home from work was not pretty.
I’ve learned as I drive my Ford Escape seven miles to Highway 18 every day. I’ve become good business for the local car wash this year.
Farmers here use a lot of irrigation. Dryland farming in our valley is questionable most years, especially with downward prices. By using center pivot systems with intensive management, our yields can be equal to yields from eastern South Dakota. The sandy soil is good for allowing the pivots to move through the fields.
I suppose there are pros and cons to all types of soil. The key is learning how to keep it healthy and working with it to help produce its best products, whether that is grass, wheat, corn or vegetables.

Related Topics: LIVESTOCKSOUTH DAKOTACROPS
What To Read Next
Up to 50% less nitrates leave fields when ‘controlled drainage’ is used with drain tile
In a new guide for Minnesota farmers, Farmers Legal Action Group attorneys explain the potential risks posed by carbon sequestration contracts.
Students at the college in Wahpeton, North Dakota, will be able to get two-year applied science degrees in precision agronomy and precision agriculture technician starting in the fall of 2023.
Researchers with North Dakota State University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are working to see if a particular variety of Lewis flax has the potential to be a useful crop.