Don’t Like the Weather, Wait a minute

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By Sandy Bond

Global Warming? Got to love it!
“Wait just a minute,” Jim Kanable, long-time Campbell County Extension Educator, teacher and farmer, said. “Not all people believe in global warming.”

He has seen weather patterns like this before, he said, but does admit that this has been an unusually warm winter. From trees to tulips, everything in this part of South Dakota seems to be at least three weeks earlier than normal. Jim just returned from his family farm in Monroe County, Wisc., he said, and trees and perennials are even further ahead than this area with blossoms on the apple trees. But then western Wisconsin receives nearly twice as much moisture as our area.
Although many people assume that this must be the warmest winter on record, it’s really only the fourth warmest, he said. In 1910, it was even warmer!

“We have had a dry fall, little snow this winter-as little as 17 inches-and a dry spring so far with no moisture in March,” he said. “But this is South Dakota. Things can change quickly!”

Jim has been a CocoRaHS volunteer observer for the last five years. An acronym for the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network, CoCoRaHS is a nonprofit community-based network of volunteers of all backgrounds and ages who work together to measure and map rain, hail, and snow. By using low-tech and low-cost measurement tools, the goal is to provide the data for natural resource, education and research in all 50 states. Every time it rains, hails, or snows in their area, the volunteer takes measurements from different locations and reports on the website (www.cocorahs.org). The National Weather Service, meteorologists, the United States Department of Agriculture, insurance adjusters, outdoor and recreation interests are just a few of those who use this information.

Last year was unusually wet with a lot of rain and snow, which amounted to about 25 inches, he said. Seventeen or 17.5 is the 30-year average for precipitation in this area of the state.

“Last year was a good year for wheat and small grain, row crops like corn and soybeans,” he said. “And it was great for hay-there was plenty of hay. This year might not be so good with the dry soil conditions we have at this time.”
Farmers have to be cautious, he said, because we can still get a killing frost-which is 28 degrees or lower for four hours or longer, for most crops.

Now, he said, can be the greatest danger of frost damage on winter wheat because it has broken its dormancy.
“For alfalfa, it depends on its cover, such as stubble,” he said. “It can still be damaged, but it will re-grow; just not as prolific.”
Conventional wisdom says that you shouldn’t cut alfalfa for hay after Sept. 15, but you can after it freezes, he said. You can graze it, after a fall frost, after it dries, but that will remove the cover protection over winter.
For spring wheat, he said, it’s not too early to plant, he said, because it will germinate and can stand up to some cold weather.

“With no frost advisory projected, the wheat should be in fine shape,” he said.

However, once soybeans emerge, they simply can’t take the frost. For corn and small grains, the growing point is below the ground for a while, so it will normally re-grow. However, the yield will be reduced.

“Farmers should check with their crop insurance agent,” he said. “Policies differ with crops; if you plant too early, you may be disqualified from any replant payments.

The greatest return on investment per crop right now is corn, he said, with 5.5 million acres expected to be planted in South Dakota this year. Farmers will receive more return per acre of corn than any other crop. The second greatest return is with soybeans. Prices and yields have been very good with both crops. The number three crop in returns per acre is wheat.

The United States Department of Agriculture has rezoned the growing season, he said. For example, Campbell County borders North Dakota and is defined as Zone 4A, but farther south in the state, including most of Walworth County, is defined as Zone 4B. Zone 4A is defined as receiving cold to the extreme of 25 degrees to 30 degrees below zero during the winter months. Zone 4B is defined as receiving 20 degrees to 30 degrees below zero.

And the extremes of cold and moisture aren’t all you have to worry about when we’re talking about trees.

“Rabbits and other rodents and deer like to nibble on smooth bark trees such as fruit trees, so they’re very susceptible to damage,” he said. “Rough bark trees like ash, elm, evergreens, cottonwood, or hackberry are not well liked by critters.”
“The record high for this date, April 1, was 76 degrees,” he said. “It’s projected that it will reach 86 degrees today. The record low on this date was zero. And the highest low received was only 44 degrees, which is also forecast to be broken for this date.”

“So this date,” he said, “could really be a good April Fools Day!”

ROTARY RAISES $5,000 FOR ARE GROUPS
The project committee report, stating $5,100 will be given to numerous organizations this year to assist them in projects, was presented by Patti Feiock, treasurer, when Rotary met on Monday, April 2, at the Mobridge Moose Lodge.

SDTA TO AWARD $1,000 SCHOLARSHIPS
The South Dakota Telecommunications Association (SDTA) has announced that it will award three $1,000 SDTA Memorial Scholarships for the 2012 fall semester.

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