This week's U.S. Drought Monitor reflects intensifying drought conditions in South Dakota, says Dennis Todey, South Dakota State University (SDSU) Extension state climatologistof the July 26 drought summary. 

“Extreme Drought (D3) was introduced in many southeast, south and western counties,” Todey says. “This is a one category degradation from last week, where much of this region had been in D2, or Severe Drought.” 

Twenty percent of the state is now in Extreme Drought (up from 0 last week).  Another 39% is in Severe Drought, says Laura Edwards, SDSU Extension climate field specialist.

“Most of the rest of the state is in Moderate Drought (D1).  Nearly all of the Corn Belt is in at least Severe Drought (D2).  Only a handful of states have no drought issues across the country,” Edwards says.

Edwards says the new Extreme Drought category in South Dakota depicts further eroding crop conditions, limited water availability and the continued extreme heat that has affected the region.  Additionally, many fires continued in the Black Hills and plains of the west, exhibiting extreme fire danger and fire behavior.

Todey adds that crop reports from the southeastern counties indicate more than half of planted corn could be a total loss. 

“Many corn fields in the area are being chopped for silage, as the crop has already lost all opportunities for recovery,” Todey says. “It is expected that this practice will continue.  Corn that has been damaged during tasseling has no chance for recovery.”

Todey adds that soybeans in the southeast are beginning to flower.

“Many flowers are aborting due to the hot and dry conditions that continue to impact the region.  This water-intense period of development for soybeans is a critical time, and aborted flowers will impact yield,” Todey says.

Edwards says that livestock operators are struggling to keep up with cattle feed and water demands across almost all of the state. 

“Feed will continue to be in short supply as a very large area of the United States is currently experiencing drought conditions, so there is little to no feed to buy or sell locally or in neighboring states,” Edwards says. “As water supplies dwindle, water quantity and quality is also becoming an issue.”

The eight SDSU Extension Regional Centers are all equipped to perform quick nitrate tests for feed and water quality for livestock.  Contact your local Center for details. Contact information for Extension Regional Centers can be found at www.iGrow.org.