Drought-like conditions worrying Minnesota farmers

Dusty Zander walks a cornfield in Maple Lake as he checks out his crop.

"It’s all wrinkled up, it’s just putting itself into a protection mode," he said.

He’s a sixth-generation farmer and was about his son Simon’s age in 1988, about 3 years old, a year many around keep talking about.

"I was … pretty little in 1988, so I don’t remember, but that’s what everybody’s dad, everybody’s grandpa, everybody’s uncle talks about," Zander said.

They’re comparing the conditions, saying these are the worst since that summer more than 30 years ago.

"They say as dry as it is, as early as it is, it could be like 1988," Zander said.

That’s when sprinkling bans, low water levels and dry fields captured the headlines.

The lack of moisture and hot dry weather now is impacting corn.

"Where we stand it isn’t that bad, but if you go that way 30 feet you can see how it changes and the corn is half as tall because it ran out of moisture quicker," he said.

Zander said what started out this spring with great planting conditions has changed quickly just this month.

"Everything got off to a really great start but then, it’s really only been the last two weeks because it’s been so hot and it hasn’t rained. It’s really turned around fast," he said.

While the lack of moisture is certainly concerning, Zander said, if we get some rain in the next week, things could still be OK.

"You look at the forecast, have you seen any rain in the next 10 days? There are small chances at the end of the week and first part of next, but none of them are real promising. But you’ve got to stay optimistic, like Simon with his rain boots on today," he said.

Wright County and much of the state is considered abnormally dry based on the state drought monitor, but some areas in northwestern and southern Minnesota are facing severe drought conditions where crop yields are low.

Zander is preparing for yield impacts here but said he’s also learned a few things from the generations before him.

"My dad always said, ‘You’ve got to manage the things you can manage,’ and this isn’t one of them," he said. "You’ve just got to be smart with what you can be smart with, and if it doesn’t rain, you’ve got to stay sane too."