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Extreme Drought Has Farmers Hoping For Wet Spring

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(credit: CBS) Rachel Slavik
Rachel Slavik joined the WCCO team in October of 2010 and is thrill...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – In the middle of winter, most of us aren’t thinking about drought conditions around the state. But much of Minnesota remains under extreme drought.

Grain farmer Dave Marquardt is already in his fields, preparing for spring.

“It’s coming quickly,” Marquardt said. “All winter long, you know, if you’re a crop farmer, you’re always thinking about the next thing.”

That next thing is the planting season, and even with snow covered fields – Dave is already seeing a potential challenge.

“Last year we probably should have been more concerned,” he said.

Seventy percent of Minnesota is in either extreme or severe drought conditions – a situation that started in the fall and will last through the winter.

So far this year central Minnesota has received 30-plus inches of snow. With all that precipitation, you wouldn’t expect there to be drought conditions. But dig underneath all that snow and you find the problem.

“The point is though that this water is not going to make its way in the soil. It’s laying upon an impervious surface. It lays upon a frozen soil,” said Marquardt.

The only fix is rain – and a lot of it. Some areas of the state are facing a precipitation deficit of 10 inches.

“All sorts of aspects of our society will be impacted by drought unless we get a nice, wet spring,” he said.

It could mean a crippling loss of crops that Dave is already trying to offset with new seeds for the upcoming plant.

“There’s a big push to be able to allow the crops to produce more with less water and stuff,” he said.

You might call it a fluid situation, where the only certainty is an unpredictable forecast.

“Every year is always a gamble,” he said.

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