The old adage, Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail can become stark reality when faced with challenges like drought. Presenters for the currently running webinar series, Managing Drought Risk on the Ranch are highlighting the importance of and encouraging producers to develop a plan to follow over the next few weeks, months and beyond to help take the emotion out of decisions they may need to make. Crop producers would be wise to do so as well.
With the unusually dry conditions much of the winter wheat across South Dakota was planted into last fall, there is considerable concern about the viability of the crop. Although some regions of the state have received precipitation, many areas remain quite dry. Producers may need to adjust their cropping plans, depending on how the spring progresses in terms of weather and precipitation.
While meeting with a producer recently, it became apparent that he had plans in place. While he devoutly follows no-till farming practices, a field fire forced him to use emergency tillage to stop wind erosion that was occurring on some of his fields. He traveled at a right-angle to the prevailing wind, using a tillage tool with wide-spaced shanks, and skipping two widths of the implement between passes. His logic was that if dry conditions persist he could come back a second, and if necessary, a third time, in the untouched ground to hopefully bring up clods of soil to stop the erosion.
His cropping plans are also based on a what if scenario. If adequate precipitation is received by the acceptable date to plant spring wheat, the seed will go in. If not, the ground will lay idle until conditions are favorable for another crop that the timing for planting is right. If all else fails, he plans to plant cover crops to take advantage of whatever moisture arrives to grow some residue and get the land into condition for the future.
Managers of a cattle operation recently requested help in designing an irrigation system to better ensure their ability to raise forages. Not everyone has the soils or the water resources to do so, but they are planning ahead rather than waiting and hoping.
A major concern with livestock producers across much of the state is the ability to raise enough forage to meet their needs. One potential source is winter wheat fields that may have less than adequate stands for optimal grain yields. Wheat can produce relatively high quality forage, and it may be beneficial to plant additional materials into poor stands to beef up yields instead of destroying the crop and starting over.
Whether you are making plans for various crops as grain or forage, the following resources may be helpful in determining how late they can be planted, seeding rates and intended use: ExEx8120, Emergency Late-seeding Options: http://pubstorage.sdstate.edu/AgBio_Publications/
articles/ExEx8120.pdf, ExEx8142, Producing Annual and Alternative Crops for Forage: http://pubstorage.
ExEx8142.pdf, and ExEx8152, Utilizing Annual Crops for Forage in Western South Dakota: http://pubstorage