Drought Conditions & Hail Storms Impacting Growing Season for Local Farmers

It started out as one of the wettest growing seasons we could’ve had, but then we entered severe or even extreme drought conditions.

Farmer Brian Herbst, who has been farming for 44 years, noticed the difference. “The ground went from totally wet to powder. It was the strangest thing I have ever seen.”

For corn, the weight of the kernels has been lower than in previous years. If the drought continues, the corn won’t grow as large as it did last year, dropping the price of it.

The lack of rainfall also results in extra labor costs. Josh Pries, who has been farming just over 10 years, has noticed.

“I don’t have a self-propelled sprayer where I can drive through the tall corn. Maybe someday.”

This drought is not the only thing presenting challenges; when we have been getting much-needed rainfall, we have also been getting severe thunderstorms with large hail. Up to half-dollar sized hail has been reported locally; that can cause serious damage to crops depending on how hard the hail hits — and how large it is — especially when those crops aren’t mature.

One of Herbst’s farms north of Kasson had hail damage. “Where you see the crop all the time, wasn’t affected at all; the crop was great. About halfway across that farm, it kind of struck me this doesn’t look normal. Then it daunted me those leaves are stripped.”

Stripped leaves either result in a lower sale price or loss of a crop depending on the extent of damage. Despite these challenges, there are factors that have been in favor of the farmers that have made this season easier. Some farmers have clay soil, which is able to trap moisture easier than other types of soil.

Pries has clay soil at his farm, and he’s seen plenty of dew as well. “Them plants just seem to soak that dew right up too.” Cooler temperatures overnight creates dew that crops have been able to absorb, providing extra moisture on top of whatever rainfall we do get. With crops becoming more mature, farmers agree that more rain leading up to harvesting season at the end of September will help. Although, profits are expected to be lower overall than last year. “Every season in the last 44 years probably has a uniqueness to it. You have to have faith and we will learn to farm another year.” Herbst stated.

If this drought continues into the colder months, we could end up with more frost deeper in the soil, which could delay planting season in 2024.