MARSHALL - With all the corn and most of the soybeans planted, after some good rainfall, farmers are cautiously optimistic about this year's crop. But paradoxically, the hard rain of last week has caused a problem with blowing dust.
"With that heavy rain we had some crusting, and with that wind there's dust blowing," said Terry Schmidt, regional agronomy manager for the agricultural service company CHS Inc.
According to Schmidt, the heavy pounding rain compacted the soil slowing the absorption of moisture and left the fine particles on top that blow in heavy wind. Blowing grit can break young corn stalks off at the base, and while corn can recover and regrow, soybeans are less able too.
Photo by Steve Browne
Heavy rains last week caused the soil to crust, and light particles to blow in the strong winds that came Thursday. East of Marshall on U.S. Highway 59, the dust reduced visibility to within a mile in places.
Soil crusting was compounded by the tillage farmers had to do to break up large dirt clods that formed after last season's drought, which because of the mild winter were not broken up in a freeze-thaw-refreeze cycle.
"We lost a lot of (crop) residue on top when it was tilled under," said Jodi DeJong-Hughes, University of Minnesota Extension educator at the Willmar office. "So when we got these heavy rains there was nothing to protect the soil and it sealed the soil. A lot of guys had to do rotary tilling to unseal it. We've got blowing dust and it's sandblasting the young plants. Otherwise the crop looks pretty good."
Last summer's drought left the soil depleted of moisture down six to seven feet, and recent rains have not filled the soil profile yet.
Joe Kristoff is an area resource soil scientist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resource Conservation Service office in Marshall.
"We've got good water retention in our soil, but once it's dried out it takes some time to recharge," Kristoff said. "What we need is 'good rain.' If you have rain like last Saturday's three inches, a lot runs off. Our soils have good permeability, but you can't get three inches to sink right in."
However, Kristoff pointed out we are leaving the spring rain season and entering the thunderstorm season.
"We need some more of the nice slow rain over a wide area," Kristoff said.