Dr. David Kee

Tools of the Trade: Drought Monitors Recommended

Hello all, I’m David Kee, your new Director of Research. As we meet, you will sense a slight difference in dialect as I am obviously from far southern Minnesota! Most of my career has been spent working in Texas, Louisiana and Alabama.

I grew up on a cow/calf operation in east Texas, but have worked with pretty much all of the major row crops, including soybeans, and a number of rather obscure ones as well. My degrees are in animal science, soil science (fertility) and crop management, so I have worn a lot of hats. As I work with growers, one of the most frequently asked questions has been “Doc, how do you decide……?” Which is another way of saying “what are some of your most dependable tools”?

One tool, the drought monitor (http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/) hosted by the University of Nebraska- Lincoln, is frequently recommended. As indicated by its name, the site monitors the drought status around the U.S. Updates provided every Thursday morning, usually around 10 a.m., CST. This gives you an overview of current drought situations for your area and the rest of the country.

While this helps today, what about next week? Next month? Next spring? Under the tab labeled “Supplemental Information” a forecast link is available. This link provides a forecast of temperature and precipitation by indicating these measurements will be above normal, below normal or near normal in a three month time frame. The October forecast suggests much of Minnesota will be warmer than normal and drier than normal this winter.

Does this mean break out the swimsuits and go sunbathing? No! However, it does suggest an opportunity may develop to plant earlier than normal. We all know every extra day early may increase the potential for a larger than average crop, much like we experienced in 2015.

What would I do with this information? Not a lot different from any other year, just become prepared to plant a bit earlier than normal. If I am ready to plant at the end of March and it’s too cold, then I get to sit back and watch the basketball playoffs until conditions are right. If on the other hand it does warm up early, I might be planting a couple of weeks earlier than anticipated.

I encourage you to explore drought monitor. Your tax dollars were used to develop it. My experience with the tool, both here and down south, has been good. I hope you will find it useful, also.

David Kee is Director of Research at Minnesota Soybean. Contact him at david@mnsoybean.com or at 888-896-9678.