Area experts say it might be too dry for planting

Local agriculture experts think some area farmers are jumping the gun by planting during such dry conditions, but one area grower has faith his crops will survive.

Officials: Early work a bad idea
Press Photo by Dain Sullivan Travis Froehlich, Belfield, seeds a field Wednesday outside Fryburg as a train passes in the background. The area is experiencing dry weather, but Froehlich said he started planting last week, and has about 800 acres of spring wheat in.

Local agriculture experts think some area farmers are jumping the gun by planting during such dry conditions, but one area grower has faith his crops will survive.

Travis Froehlich, Belfield, said he started planting spring wheat last week, and already has about 800 acres in. The area has experienced dry weather in recent weeks, but Froehlich thinks there is at least some moisture in the soil from last year.

"It's not as dry as you think," he said. "You go down about an inch, there's good moisture there."

Additionally, Froehlich is sticking to his planting motto: "The earlier, the better."

"It could turn around and start raining here in April and May," he said.


Patrick Carr, agronomist for the North Dakota State University Extension Center in Dickinson, thinks farmers should hold off on planting because there is likely not enough moisture to "get the seed germinated."

"I'd actually heard reports of people thinking about (planting) a couple weeks ago, and that is pretty early," Carr said. "I think the big thing right now is whether what they plant is going to come up. I know it's awful dry on top."

Carr agrees with Froehlich in that there is leftover moisture in the soil. However, until the area receives sufficient rain, farmers may have to dig at least 2 inches to find water, which is too deep, he added.

"It's going to be more than just a sprinkle. We don't need a belly-washer, but we need a pretty measureable amount (of rain)," he said. "I would be happy with an inch to an inch and a half."

The area saw a trace of rain this week, which was less than Carr and area farmers hoped for.

These dry conditions are different from previous years, Carr said. In addition to seeing little rain and snow this year, he added that heavy winds make conditions worse.

"This is such a departure from the past couple of years. I think that's part of the impact," he said. "It's been such a weird spring so far. It's been unusually warm and unusually dry, and in the last couple years, it's been really cold and really wet."

Another extension employee said crops are not the only thing farmers should be concerned about during dry weather.


Llewellyn Manske, range scientist for the Dickinson Extension Center, said farmers will likely see problems with grazing until it rains.

"The grass is not ready to graze, even though it's green," Manske said. "If (farmers) are out there trying to graze this, and they remove the grass, they're going to hurt the grasses more by grazing them and will lose even more herbage production for the growing season."

Waiting to graze is a tall order for most people, Manske said, adding that farmers are eager to get their animals out during warm weather.

Some farmers are willing to take a leap of faith.

Froehlich admits planting early during a dry spell is risky, but remains happy to have gotten a "good start." He also said controlling the weather is out of his hands.

"It's all up to the good old boy above," he said.

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