SD farmers turn to drain tilling after floods

South Dakota News

PARKER, S.D. (KELO) — A wet spring and summer are devastating farmers in southeastern South Dakota.

In the Parker and Hurley area, there’s been so much moisture, fields that have produced for decades are now unable to yield a crop.

Cutting through the earth on farm land that sits in between Parker and Hurley. It’s not how farmer Allan Berthelsen was hoping to spend his summer and it has him feeling down in the dirt.

“Like a dang poor farmer. That’s just what it amounts to. It just makes you feel like a poor farmer. It upsets me. It’s hard to live through all this and everything without no crop. It’s just hard to do,” Berthelsen said.

These 450 acres have been in Berthelsen’s family since 1928. From his grandfather down to his grandson, he says every family member has seen some sort of crop succeed here every year.

“I’m 65 years old. I’ve been here all my life. I can remember the 93s and the 80s and all that. We always got something planted,” Berthelsen said.

This year though, nothing. Even the cover crop was washed away by a downpour two weeks ago.

He’s not alone and like many others, he is doing something about it.

“It’s all about doing the best that they can with the land that they have. That’s what’s really highlighted a lot of what we do. Instead of investing in a new parcel of land, they just invest in the one they already own or operate and get it up to maximum productivity,” Randy Namminga said.

Namminga owns THA Demolition and Excavation. They specialize in drain tiling and the company has been more popular than ever this year.

“We are definitely filled up all the way until Christmas, until freeze up,” Namminga said.

Normally they’d be done tiling by Memorial Day and pick back up in the fall following the growing season.

“It removes excess, sub-surface water from the soil. And I highlight the word excess. It leaves the moisture that can still be there to be utilized by the crop,” Namminga said.

This summer, Namminga says business has tripled.

“We’ve actually added a machine, a second tile plow to accommodate that need and future needs,” Namminga said.

There’s 25,000 feet of pipe is going 3-4 feet in the ground here on this piece of land in the Parker area. Normally that would take three days to install, but because of all the rain, they’ve been here two weeks.

Drain pipe lined up at the Berthelsen’s farm.

“There’s perforations in it and then the water will work towards it and it will help maintain your water level in the ground,” Gray said.

Justin Gray works at Prinsco. The company manufactures the pipe you see here. Gray says when the tiling is done properly, it can make a big difference. This is a tiled field to the south of Berthelsen’s farm.

“If you go look at some fields that have been tiled in the past now, they’re really thriving. They’re really looking really nice. The ones that aren’t tiled. This is what we’re running into. A lot of prevent plant. A lot of crops that are drowning out that just don’t look really healthy right now,” Gray said.

“I hate seeing weeds growing where I love to farm. I’m a born farmer. I started when I was 12 years old, helping my dad. We been farming all of our lives. My boy is no different. He’s been out here helping me milk cows and farming since he was about ten,” Berthelsen said.

Berthelsen says his family will be fine despite the struggles. This should have been a field flush with corn this year that was already sold.

“What do you do? Get ready for next year. That’s the farmer’s life. Next year. We’ll always go next year,” Berthelsen said.

In the meantime, he’ll make the most of this season by upgrading this area’s drainage.

“There’s history here that’s why I want to make it better for the future generations. That’s what it amounts to,” Berthelsen said.

Berthelsen says the field being tiled actually sits pretty high. Remarkably, he says this past April it was covered with 2.5 inches of water.

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