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Last week’s derecho apparently did little harm to crops, but drought could last the rest of this year, a US Department of Agriculture (USDA) official says.

The derecho brought hurricane-strength winds as high as 107 miles per hour to South Dakota and Nebraska. Farmers and ranchers are left with clean-up, calculating their losses and discovering what assistance, if any, is available.

From an agriculture standpoint, some bright spots have emerged in the aftermath, said Dennis Todey, director of the USDA Midwest Climate Hub.

“There didn’t sound like there was much in the way of livestock loss. It was mostly building damage,” he said during a webinar Thursday.

“As far as crops, if there was little emergence, there was likely little damage. If the crop was planted near the surface, there might have been an impact, but overall, the crop impact was relatively small.”

Many parts of the Central Plains have experienced dry conditions, with Nebraska recording its third driest April on record, according to researcher Aaron Wilson with The Ohio State University.

In contrast, a late snowstorm of 18 or more inches lifted North Dakota to its sixth wettest April, Wilson said during Thursday’s webinar.

La Nina, a weather pattern which comes off the Pacific Ocean, could persist through the summer and even into fall and winter, Wilson. La Nina, currently a multi-year system, generally brings warm, dry conditions to the upper plains.

Much of the Yankton region remains in severe drought, although most of Knox County, Nebraska, has been classified as extreme drought.

“Corn and soybeans are well behind the five-year average (for acres planted) by 18% and 9%,” Wilson said of the national outlook.

US corn planted acres doubled last week, going from 22% planted on May 8 to 49% planted as of May 15, according to USDA. Yet, that is still significantly below the five-year average of 67%. Last year, 94% of corn was planted by mid-May.

So far, 14% of the US corn crop has emerged, which is well below the five-year average of 32% by mid-May. North Dakota, Minnesota, South Dakota and Iowa are the most behind in planting compared to each state’s average pace.

For soybeans, 30% of the US crop has been planted. That compares to a five-year average of 39%. Again, Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota are the furthest behind their average planting paces for soybeans.

The late rate of emergence has arisen from a combination of late planting along with early planted crops that haven’t emerged yet, Todey said.

“The earlier planting has seeds still sitting in the ground and hasn’t emerged yet,” he said. “Crops that were planted should start emerging pretty quickly.”

Soil temperatures have risen because of warmer temperatures, including the 90s in Yankton, and a higher sun angle that produces more warmth even if the mercury reading isn’t as high, he said.

Farmers are looking at closing windows in which they move forward with planting, look at an alternative crop or decide not to plant at all, Todey said.

“Soybeans tend to be planted later, so we’re not bad on soybean emergence,” the former South Dakota state climatologist said.

The situation for Northern Plains rangeland varies because it’s not all the same grass. Todey said.

“There are a lot of cool grasses that take advantage of the cooler temperatures and rainfall to green up and grow more efficiently from the April-June time frame,” he said.

“That’s why we point out the issue, when we miss out on precipitation in the springtime, the later precipitation is less likely and doesn’t help most of the grasses.”

The Yankton region received temperatures in the low 90s Thursday but is headed for a major cooldown and a chance of precipitation in the coming days, according to the National Weather Service. However, any storms won’t be comparable to last week’s activity.

Weather and agriculture are analyzing the derecho that rolled through multiple states last Thursday, creating major damage.

“Derechos tend to be more west to east, and this one had more of an easterly component, so it was an odd storm,” Todey said.

Much of the Central Plains that was hit with last week’s storm system received a one-two punch of a haboob, or major dust storm, followed by the derecho, Wilson said.

“The May 12 haboob brought wind speeds of more than hurricane force that topped out at 107 miles per hour. We had another one of 102 miles per hour,” he said.

“In terms of the magnitude of wind, a lot of dust was spread across the region. We had the second highest number of single-day wind reports of 55 miles per hour since 2004.”

The Central Plains, particularly the Dakotas, Minnesota and Wisconsin, has seen the latest onset of spring conditions in decades, Wilson said.

“We see this once every 40 years,” he said. “It’s contributing to the planting delays and lack of warming in soils.”

However, Todey looks for farmers to make up for any lost time.

“If they have warm weather and soil conditions are good for planting, they’re going to be out in the fields,” he said.

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