Snowfall delays planting across South Dakota
Farmers are eager to get their planters in the fields, but with snow still on the ground, they will have to wait awhile.
GOODWIN, S.D. — Spring hasn’t really felt like spring this year for producers in South Dakota, as snow has continued to fly well into the beginning of April. With all the snow on the ground, planting season will be delayed for many producers.
Equipment that would normally be in the field is under snowbanks at Todd Hanten’s farm in Goodwin.
“We built a shop and are happy to have a shop, but yet with livestock, we’ve got all of our equipment in the shed yet because of this cold, snowy weather. We’ve got everything in there to move snow, to blow snow, take care of the livestock. There’s no room for us to get out planter in to get in the shop to start working on it,” said Hanten. “Normally we would already have it worked on and hooked up.”
This year, Hanten’s farm got over 55 inches of snow, the most they have seen since 1997.
“That year we were late on planting, but we did get everything planted, so I am hopeful and positively thinking that we will get things planted,” said Hanten.
This snow has thrown his planting schedule back this year. In a normal year, Hanten usually likes to get the spring wheat planted by April 11, corn planted by the May 1, and the soybeans in by the first couple days of May.
“Every year that’s our goal, to get in and get some spring wheat planted by April 11, and most years we’ve gotten that accomplished and some years we’ve had it all in and planted by April 11. That’s definitely not going to happen,” said Hanten.
Late planting can bring many challenges, especially when it comes to weed control.
“Weeds get off to a start that you don’t like,” said Hanten. “You like to get your crop planted so that they are going to be competing with the weeds, and they are going to get height and a canopy that will help us fight weeds easier. But if we get it in late, then the weeds have already taken off. The weeds are sometimes ahead, so we have to spray them more than we would like to just because of the timing of the canopy and our crop emergence.”
Last year, Hanten faced issues with moisture flooding out his fields, causing him to have to plant some sections of fields multiple times, which is something he fears could happen again this year.
“Very worried about that. We had to make several trips to fields to areas that were able to be planted but then we had to come back and plant them again and again in some circumstances, which messes it up for the spraying and the harvest and everything,” said Hanten.
But in other areas of the state, conditions before this spring were extremely dry, and this moisture will help set producers up for success.
“I think the soil moisture that we are going to get from this spring from snowmelt and precipitation in general can carry us quite a bit into the summer season and hopefully protect us from at least extreme drought for the beginning to middle part of the growing season for the summer,” said SDSU Extension state climatologist Laura Edwards.
A lot of the soils across the state were able to absorb the moisture from the snowfall.
“Basically, no frost in the soil, say about I-90 and south of there, so a lot of the snow melt did go into the soils to recharge that soil moisture for us, which is great. They have struggled with drought for the past couple of years,” said Edwards. “Up in the north as well, we don’t have very deep frost under the snowpack, so once we see some warmer temperatures, I think those soils will thaw out pretty quick right along with the snowmelt at the same time.”
But temperatures are cool for this time of the year.
“To start getting planted, we look at soil temperatures 40 degrees or warmer for wheat, 50 degrees or warmer when we are looking at corn, soybeans, you know, 50 to 60 degrees,” said Edwards. “We have a little ways to go yet before, you know, those seeds will go in the ground.”
And when they do get in the field, farmers can expect to experience muddy conditions.
“It certainly will be a slow start to the spring,” said Edwards.
Producers are preparing for possible planting challenges and working to get into the field as soon as possible.
“With the knowledge that we’ve accumulated that early planting really makes a difference, this spring is looking like that’s going to make it tough, and it makes you anxious to want to get it in as early as you can. But you just can’t push it in those wet conditions,” said Hanten.
Hanten is also concerned about the conditions on the county roads and the dangers that can bring for producers traveling in those rural areas.