10/28/2021 Fall Forecast #443

What does Mother Nature have in store for farmers this fall and winter? Daryl Ritchison, Director of the North Dakota Agricultural Weather Network, joins Sound Ag Advice to discuss his short- and long-term forecast.

Speaker 1: Kelli Anderson, NDSU Agriculture Communication Specialist
Speaker 2: Daryl Ritchison, North Dakota Agricultural Weather Network Director

Kelli: This is Sound Ag Advice, a weekly feature presented by NDSU Extension. I'm Kelli Anderson and I'm joined this week by Daryl Ritchison, North Dakota Agricultural Weather Network director. So Daryl, we've heard about drought all summer long, but we are finally starting to see some precipitation. Can you give us a snapshot of what's going on in the state moisture-wise right now?

Daryl: There's an old English proverb that goes like this, there is no debt so surely met as wet to dry and dry to wet. Even though it's an old English proverb, I always teasingly say it could be the state model of North Dakota. In many ways, that's exactly what has now happened. We have had some areas, just in the month of October, I've had between five and eight inches plus of rain just in the last three weeks, plus September. So really, once we got into late August, it was gradual at different times in different parts of the state. But I would say about 80% of the state now has really reset, especially if you're going to talk about soil water conditions. So we've really reset the system, the northwest corner of the state, is still seeing some deficits, but we've really flipped things around dramatically. And we're really in a really good position. Now for 2022, at least in the spring, matter of fact, this isn't like crying wolf, in any sense of the word. I'm not saying we're going to have one, but we've so saturated our soils now that if we had a bad winter, you know, we would have at least some flooding next year. That's how quickly in many parts of the state and a region that we flipped from dry to wet.

Kelli: That was going to be my next question, parts of our state that have had very dry soils, they've been able to recover and see some saturation because of this current moisture? Is that what you're saying?

Daryl: The thing is, a lot of times people will tell me, "Well, you know, we're still three inches below average." And I go, "Yes, you are. But do you really want three inches this time a year, because we're already saturated." Once you're saturated, you get runoff, you fill the ponds, you know, you've really reloaded the system, I always tell people, you really have to think of it as no, you can never make up the past. But we really have reset the system, the soil has plenty of moisture, most of the state has far more moisture in the soil water right now than we would in a typical year, actually, even if we had like average precipitation all year. But you always really have to think of it that way. Because again, you can't go back in time. If I go back for the last 50 years, this area's okay, you're 50 inches below average, do you want that, you know, you can't catch up the past. Again, not everywhere, but a high percentage has reset, and are really sitting in a good position right now to start off 2022.
Kelli: For our producers who are trying to get corn out of the field, what's going to be happening in the next few weeks, so that they can continue to harvest?
Daryl: It looks really cold in the short term, and you don't get a lot of evaporation from that, but it will dry off, I have no worries that we'll get the corn levels to dry off again, to be harvestable. The problem is when you get really wet this time of year, you can't dry off the soils. And in turn if you're in a cornfield that say doesn't practice soil health practices or no till, you know, then there's just really mud sitting there. And it's really hard maybe to get out. I think because it looks reasonably dry for the next couple of weeks that most folks will be able to get it out there. Most years, you'll always have some areas that for any number of reasons, you know, have to leave the corn, but I know I've had conversations this morning, as this was being recorded, with someone who said, Daryl, I've now had over six inches of rain this month, I'm really going to struggle getting that corn out, and there might be a little bit left behind. But if there is, there would be nothing close to, of course, what happened to us just two years ago in the fall of 2019.

Kelli: Daryl, let's talk about a long-term forecast. What are you thinking in terms of precipitation and possibly even a first snowfall for North Dakota this year?

Daryl: Well, the first snow fall will be easy because the western part of the state already had one. I could name that date. But if you're talking most areas, at least in the short term, I don't see one it might be some flurries around, which a lot of people Ooh, the first snow of the season. Well in my world that's just flurries you know, I'd say the first inch or two probably will occur sometime in November when most years that it actually does, of course we know the past few October's that was not the case. But really, we had a reset in the pattern in many ways. Since late August, we did have a very dry, warm stretch in late September and early October.

My fall forecast was to be wetter than average, which has come true. I think this change will last through the winter. And so, my current forecast for the winter is above average precipitation. And that usually equates to colder than average temperatures, which would be a huge change from last year. Doesn't necessarily mean it'd be a horrible, horrible winter. But even average, or slightly above, would be a big reset. But again, that's only more moisture and why I have a good feeling the moisture problem we had this year in the spring of 2021, just does not look to be very likely to reoccur in 2022.

Kelli: Thank you for the information today, Daryl. It's always a pleasure to chat with you. This has been Sound Ag Advice, a weekly feature presented by NDSU Extension.

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