When it comes to moisture & yields, Houston County is fairing better

By Charlie Warner
Argus News Editor

“I guess we’re really lucky to be living where we are,” said Extension Educator Jerry Tesmer last week. “I just reviewed the final yield figures for 2011 and see that we were way above the national average for corn yields last year.”

According to the figures, the national average for corn yields was 147.2 bushels per acres (bpa), the state average was 156 bpa, the average in Houston County was 172 bpa and in Fillmore County 179.3 bpa.

The national average for soybean yields was 41.5 bpa, the state average was 38.5 bpa, the average in Houston County was 46.2 bpa and in Fillmore County 47.6 bpa.

Tesmer figured the state average for soybeans was lower than the national average due to the drought that much of central and western Minnesota experienced last year.

Speaking of the drought, the latest information from the National Weather Service indicates that the extreme southeast corner of Minnesota is the only portion of the state that is not currently included in the drought map.

Western Fillmore County and most of Winona County are currently included in the “abnormally dry” classification, while the rest of the state is either in the “moderate drought” or “severe drought” classifications.

During January of 2012, between 0.50 and 1.00 inches of precipitation fell across Minnesota, Iowa, and the northern two-thirds of Wisconsin; and from 1.00 to 1.50 inches across the southern third of Wisconsin. While this precipitation was beneficial, there was no significant change in the abnormally dry/drought situation across the area.

Heading into the winter of 2011-12, it looked like a moderate La Niña was going to help alleviate the drought. However, the La Niña was not as strong as anticipated.  The southern storm track (associated with the subtropical jet stream)  remained located from the Southern Plains northeast into the Tennessee and Ohio River Valleys and not displaced northwest into this area.

As a result, predictions are precipitation will likely remain near-normal through the remainder of the 2011-12 winter and the moderate to severe drought conditions will persist into the spring season.

The very dry fall and nearly snowless winter have many farmers worried. Tesmer said the area is in need of copious amounts of precipitation to recharge subsoil moisture.

Has the snowless winter posed issues with local alfalfa stands?

“The dry weather probably has a more adverse affect on alfalfa than the lack of snow,” Tesmer said. “Dry weather really puts alfalfa under a lot of stress. Because we haven’t had a cold winter, the lack of a snow cover shouldn’t have a drastic impact on the hay crop. But if we get some drastic swings in temperatures in March, we could see some real issues.”

While things seem pretty dry in this corner of the state, compared to the rest of Minnesota, Houston County is fairing better…so far.

You can contact Charlie Warner at [email protected]