When I lived in northeastern South Dakota in the 1960s and 1970s, the James River was a tree-lined meandering river with well-defined banks. Somewhere, those well-defined banks are still there, but they’re now covered under a wall of water on U.S. Highway 12 east of Aberdeen.
Prolific rainfall in recent years has caused the James to swell out of its banks onto adjacent farmland. In drier days, this river-bottom ground was some of the region’s most productive farmland. Now, it’s home to ducks and wayward fish.
This flooding has impacted the region’s cropland that’s interspersed with prevented planting acres. Not all is bad news, though. These soybeans on my family’s home farm near Claremont, South Dakota, were looking pretty good on August 23 when I visited.
It’s a different world in Illinois. This corn on U.S. Highway 136 between San Jose and Havana, Illinois, was all done when I stopped by on August 31. Rainfall has been scant and heat plentiful in this area of west-central Illinois this summer.
The soil probe that I was so easily able to plunge into northeastern South Dakota soils didn’t make a dent in these drought-stricken ones. I couldn’t penetrate more than 3 inches with the probe in this field.
“On April 6 through the 8th, we planted a share of our corn early,” says Gary Gathman. “The weather was bad and maybe we shouldn’t have planted it, but when it was all said and done, it was the best thing we could have done.”