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Year in Review: Early to mid-season drought leads to August rains that save 2021 growing season

It was a decent year for agriculture, and the area's beef industry was highlighted with the Minnesota State Cattlemen's Summer Beef Tour in July.

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Brian Kempema operates the combine and Jim Scheepstra drives the grain cart as the farmers harvest a field of soybeans Saturday afternoon near Nobles County 12, west of Worthington. (Tim Middagh / The Globe)

REGIONAL — From perfect planting weather this spring to a nearly-ideal harvest period in the fall, the region’s farmers seemed to fare rather well in 2021, despite a mid-season drought that put the area into the moderate to severe category.

Farmers took advantage of a relatively dry spring to get their crops in the ground on time, but for most, rain was in short supply.

Clayton Schilling, a farmer from near Ellsworth, said in late June that he’d received just a few tenths of an inch for the entire month.

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A farmer applies herbicide to a field of soybeans north of Luverne on June 22, 2021, not far from Touch The Sky Prairie. (Tim Middagh/The Globe)

“Over by Kanaranzi, we caught two inches of rain. It’s just a matter of where you are this year — if you’re under the right cloud or the wrong cloud.”

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Five miles northeast of Reading, Randy Lubben reported a bit more rain, but not as much as farmers south and east of Worthington, he said. Lubben recorded .33 of an inch on June 26, and another half-inch on June 28.

The lack of rain put crops on the edge, Lubben said, noting rolled-up leaves on his corn stalks.

“The good ground is doing alright, but anything that’s in lighter soil, it’s looking really tough,” he said.

By July, the region had moved into a moderate to severe drought, and remained there until the clouds finally opened up in early to mid-August.

In the Aug. 14 edition of The Globe, it was reported that the U.S. Drought Monitor had moved portions of southwest Minnesota out of a moderate drought and into the abnormally dry category.

In Worthington, just over two inches of rain was recorded between Aug. 5 and Aug. 11. The Aug. 5 rainstorm, however, brought with it strong winds to portions of Nobles County. Rural Adrian farmers Chad Wieneke and Jeff Bullerman, said they had winds clocked at 75 mph.

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Another semi trailer load of corn is added to the New Vision Co-op corn pile at the outside temporary storage area in Brewster. Tim Middagh / The Globe

“We had two inches of rain in the gauge — that’s what we caught — in 20 minutes,” reported Wieneke, adding that he had about 600 acres of corn damaged and 100 acres that was totally flattened.

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Bullerman had a 160-acre field of corn that was also flattened, but said it could be chopped for silage.

“There’s still a decent crop there — it’s just a matter of how well we can pick it up,” Bullerman said.

In September, just as farmers were gearing up for harvest, the federal government announced a $10 million drought relief package available to Minnesota crop producers.

In other agricultural news, the Rock-Nobles Cattlemen hosted this year’s Minnesota State Cattlemen’s Summer Beef Tour, featuring nine tour stops in Nobles and Rock counties. The event, rescheduled from 2020 — when it was canceled due to the pandemic — drew approximately 1,000 attendees.

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A family visits before getting on a bus for The Minnesota State Cattlemen's Summer Tour on July 13, 2021. Tim Middagh/The Globe

Related Topics: AGRICULTUREDROUGHTFARMING
Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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