Depending where you are located you may have gotten some much-needed rainfall in the past 7-10 days, or may have received virtually no rainfall. There have been several rainfall events that have moved through the upper Midwest during the past couple of weeks, and rainfall locations and amounts have been highly variable. In southern Minnesota you can almost draw a line from north to south through the center of the region. East of that line has been getting numerous rainfall occurrences, with significant rainfall amounts and pretty good areas coverage; west of that line rainfall events have been very spotty, with generally small rainfall amounts and very limited coverage area.

For example, the U of M Southern Research Center at Waseca has received over 2 in. of rainfall in the past two weeks, after receiving nearly normal rainfall in June. Some areas of southeast Minnesota and northern Iowa received even higher amounts of rainfall in the past two weeks. By comparison, the U of M Southwest Research Center at Lamberton has received only 0.78 in. of rainfall in July, after receiving below-normal rainfall in both May and June. Accumulated rainfall at Lamberton since May 1, 2007, is 6.96 in., compared to a normal of about 10.5 in. Since mid-June, the Lamberton research site has received less that 1 in. of rainfall. There are areas in western south central Minnesota and southwest Minnesota that have received virtually no rain in the last 30-40 days.

The difference in dryness from east to west across southern Minnesota is also bore out in the amount of available stored soil moisture in the top five feet of soil. At Waseca, there was 6 in. of available moisture on July 16, which is only 0.80 in. below normal for mid-July. By comparison, at Lamberton there was only 3.19 in. of available soil moisture, with most of that moisture in lower soil profile. The soil moisture at Lamberton is over 2 in., or 39%, below normal and is at the lowest level in several years for mid-July. Again, there are probably areas of southwest Minnesota that have even less available stored soil moisture than at Lamberton.Crop stress to corn and soybeans in south central and southwest Minnesota continues to increase in the areas that are very short of rainfall. What once looked like a good-to-excellent corn and soybean crop for 2007, now looks like an average-to-good crop at best – if we get some timely rainfall in the next few weeks. There could be considerable crop loss in some areas if this dry weather pattern continues. The 2007 hay crop has also been very short in these same areas. After a normal first cutting of alfalfa, the second cutting was greatly reduced by the dry weather, and the third cutting of alfalfa may be non-existent without some rainfall very soon.

Johanns at Farmfest

It was recently announced that U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns will attend FARMFEST, and will participate in the Feature Forum at Farmfest at 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday, August 7, "The New Farm Bill … Shaping the Future of Rural America."Secretary Johanns will join Minnesota 7th District Congressman Collin Peterson, chair of the U.S. House Agriculture Committee; 1st District Congressman Tim Walz, also a member of the U.S. House Ag Committee; as well as Senators Norm Coleman and Amy Klobuchar, who both sit on the U.S. Senate Ag Committee. The opportunity to have Secretary Johanns, House Ag Committee Chair Peterson, and the other Congressional Leaders from Minnesota on a Farmfest Forum at this stage of development of the next farm bill is a very special event, and is an excellent opportunity for an interactive public discussion on various titles and provisions of a potential new farm bill.

Editor’s note: Kent Thiesse is a former University of Minnesota Extension educator and now is Vice President of MinnStar Bank, Lake Crystal, MN. You can contact him at 507-726-2137 or via e-mail at kent.thiesse@minnstarbank.com.