PIERRE, S.D.-A rainy October following on the heels of a wet September chased drought just about out of South Dakota, according to the latest map released by the U.S. Drought Monitor operated out of the University of Nebraska at Lincoln.
As of the report released last week based on conditions Oct. 16, 92 percent of the state is free of any sort of drought condition, and 77 percent of the state was free of not only any level of drought, but even of any "abnormally dry" conditions; that's up from only 64 percent a week earlier, Oct. 9.
The drought categories of "severe," "extreme" and "exceptional" were not found in any corner of South Dakota by the multi-agency-sourced Drought Monitor system as of last week.
That's quite a change since early summer, before rains came.
On June 5, half the state was either abnormally dry - 28 percent; or was in moderate or severe drought - 22 percent.
But, by chance, the remaining 8 percent of the state still in moderate drought runs in a narrow band from Aberdeen southwest through Pierre and Fort Pierre to about Midland.
Pierre has received above normal rainfall for October, so far through Saturday, Oct. 20: 1.41 inch compared with the 30-year average for the first 20 days of the month of 1.21 inch.
But for the year so far, Pierre has received 16.15 inches of precipitation since Jan. 1, which is 2.11 inches below normal for the period.
The less-than-ideal harvest conditions likely will hurt the quality of the biggest corn and soybean crops ever grown in South Dakota. On Oct. 11, USDA released the latest projections, based on field conditions as of Oct. 1: a record 851 million bushels of corn ready to be combined for grain, up 16 percent from a year ago and several million bushels higher than the September estimate.
Farmers were projected to glean a record yield of 172 bushels per acre of corn. As the wet fields delay harvest, that might go down.
Soybean production also is pegged to hit a record, of 281 million bushels, also up 16 percent from the 2017 harvest and up 4 million bushels from the September estimate. Soybean yields also are projected to hit a record, at 50 bushels per acre, up a healthy 7 bushels from 2017 yields.
High yields, of course, are good medicine for low prices, helping farmers take home more pay for their crops. But sitting too long in wet fields can cut yields and cut the quality of corn and beans.
This week, temperatures in and around Pierre are predicted to be around 60 degrees for daily highs, which is pretty close to normal, with nighttime lows around 40 degrees. The only forecast for rain is on Wednesday.
The hurricanes on the eastern coastlines contributed to a wet weather pattern over much of the nation, including the eastern Dakotas.
Snow provided a lot of moisture across parts of North Dakota 10 days ago, including 19 inches at the Grand Forks Air Force Base in the northeast part of the state. Meanwhile, over the past few weeks, a lot of rain fell across much of central and eastern South Dakota last week.
"This year has been the perfect storm of late season moisture and temperature to cause harvest and seed quality issues," Sara Bauder, agronomy field specialist with SDSU extension, said in a recent bulletin.
September and October came in much wetter than normal in large parts of eastern South Dakota, said Laura Edwards, SDSU extension climatologist.
"Although South Dakota has seen late harvest seasons in the past, this year is testing many farmers' patience considering the wet weather of the past few weeks and current climate outlook," Edwards said in an extension bulletin.
On the way to perhaps a record precipitation for the year of more than 33 inches, Sioux Falls received nearly 10 inches of rain from Sept. 1 to Oct. 9.
"This excessive moisture has made field access impossible and stalled grain drying in the field," Edwards said.
Residents of other communities in eastern South Dakota report having sump pumps running in basements for the first time in decades and water ponding on lawns.