Diamonds (sort of) in the drought rough

  • 01

    Drought has devastated many U.S. fields this summer. Still, there are some areas where crops so far look in good shape. There’s often a reason for this, though. Some farmers, like those in northeastern South Dakota, endured several tough flooding years before finally putting moisture to good use this year.

  • 02

    Irrigation is a lifesaver this year for farmers like Jerry Cox, Delta, Missouri. Cox farms in the Missouri Bootheel in an area where irrigation is prevalent. This year, it’s proving to be the difference between a corn crop and no corn crop.

  • 03

    “This year was the earliest we ever started watering, around May 5,” says Cox. “Normally, we start around a month later. We have spent a lot more money for fuel this year, but we do whatever we can to keep watering.” This strategy has enabled them to keep up with corn water needs during this hot and dry summer.

  • 04

    Dryland corn, though, tells a different story. This field by Oskaloosa, Iowa, was firing on the edge. Still, it didn’t look that bad from the road.

  • 05

    Inside the row showed a different story. Ears were tipped back and leaves were firing. A plant will do anything it can to form an ear, and that’s why plants cannibalize themselves.

  • 06

    The good news is that many soybean fields look better than corn. Timely rains this month have helped soybeans in fields like this form pods. Damage has been done, though. In USDA’s most recent crop progress report of August 13, just 30% of soybeans in 18 selected states were rated as good to excellent.

  • 07

    I passed through my family’s farm near Claremont, South Dakota, on the way up to field days in southeastern North Dakota. If any area can be considered a garden spot, this is it. The corn from my family’s field is on the left in the early blister stage.

  • 08

    This field of corn flanked by soybeans in back had a pretty good stand. Soil moisture was also excellent, due to timely summer rains. Ditto for subsoil moisture. There’s a catch, though.

  • 09

    This is what that same quarter looked like last year. Northeastern South Dakota farmers suffered through prolific precipitation in 2010 and 2011. The black humor joke is farmers followed a four-way rotation of corn, soybeans, bullheads, and prevented planting.

  • 10

    Fortunately, this year looks better. Lots of these soybeans came up to my breastbone when I was walking through them. Wet conditions still prevail, as these cattails coming up through soybeans show.

  • 11

    It’s not all blue skies and eatin’ peanuts, though. There still are some holes in this soybean field, as this pothole shows. Last year, it was a lot worse, though. Dogs belonging to the woman who lives on our old farmstead, Laurie Stiegelmeier, had their pick of swimming holes in this field last year. No more!

See a few fields that aren't in as much pain as most in this drought year.

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