Huron (NRCS) - As one of the worst droughts in over 30 years to grip South Dakota, the United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) reminds producers to work with the local NRCS office to remain in compliance with their current conservation plan on highly erodible land (HEL).
Drought conditions affect plant health and yields. This in turn, affects the amount of nitrogen removed from the soil and the amount of cover left on a field following harvest. Producers who have a conservation plan on their highly erodible cropland need to maintain a certain level of crop residue to remain in compliance with their conservation plan. The drought could make meeting that requirement difficult for some producers.
According to State Conservationist Jeffery Zimprich, SD NRCS is providing flexibility in assistance to the producers. Producers unable to meet residue requirements due to drought conditions may be eligible for what NRCS calls a conservation compliance variance.
SD NRCS understands that crop yields are down all across the state. For this reason, no-till producers who continue to do no tillage prior to planting a crop next spring on highly erodible fields will not be found out of compliance due to insufficient crop residue. Producers who use conventional tillage operations will also be eligible for this variance if they plant a cover crop following the fall tillage operation, Zimprich said.
According to Zimprich, fields that have been grazed or cut to provide much needed forage in 2012 would also be eligible for this variance. Farmers that do not practice no-till are encouraged to reconsider. If producers continue to conduct their normal levels and types of tillage on drought affected HEL fields, soil erosion will almost certainly increase.
The drought has also impacted soil Nitrogen (N) levels if corn silage or grain yield was affected by drought conditions, then N uptake would have been reduced and unused nitrate-N can be accounted for in determining the N fertilization rate for the 2013 corn crop. Soil testing is your best way to evaluate the fertility status of a field. Samples should be taken at depths of 0-6 inches and 6-24 inches for nitrate-N. With the early fall harvest this year, carefully consider the risks of early N fertilizer or manure application. With typical warm soils in the late summer and early fall, conversion of fertilizer and manure ammonium to nitrate will be rapid. This places the applied N at risk for loss if wet conditions develop.
Farmers and ranchers are encouraged to visit with their local NRCS office to plan for recovery from this drought and in preparation for the next.