Snow flies, but drought persists

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Winter storms that swept across much of the country over the past week will certainly improve soil moisture, but we’re a long way from breaking the pattern of drought in many areas. The latest Weekly Weather and Crop Bulletin from USDA and the U.S. Department of Commerce shows persistent drought and dry soils in many key agricultural areas.

The report, covering the week ending on February 23, shows last week’s snows providing much-needed moisture for rangeland, pastures, and winter wheat across the central and southern Plains. Areas from Oklahoma and parts of Kansas into the southern Corn Belt received over an inch of moisture from last week’s storms. Storms centered over northern Florida, southeastern Alabama and southern Georgia dropped more than four inches of rain, but the Florida peninsula remains dry.

Another storm this week, which is not included in the report, brought more heavy snow and rain from Colorado’s Front Range across the Southern and Central Plains.

The U.S. Drought Monitor map, however, shows some level of drought across most of the western half of the United States, including the western Corn Belt, and much of the Southeast.

An outlook map from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) included in the weekly report projects drought trends through May 31. The map shows drought persisting across most of the West, with some potential for improvement in Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota and parts of North and South Dakota. The map indicates conditions are likely to improve in Wisconsin, eastern Iowa, eastern Minnesota and northern Illinois. Parts of the Southeast also are likely to see wetter conditions, although drought is likely to persist on the Florida peninsula.

Key points in the state-by-state agricultural summaries include:

Colorado – Mountain snowpack is currently 74 percent of average, up from 61 percent a month ago. The winter wheat crop remains dormant under recent snow cover in mostly poor to fair condition.

Illinois -- Winter Wheat was rated as 2 percent poor, 29 percent fair, 61 percent good, and 8 percent excellent.

Kansas – Range and pasture condition: 53 percent very poor, 30 percent poor, 15 percent fair, 2 percent good, and 0 percent excellent. Hay and forage supplies: 35 percent very short, 37 percent short, 27 percent adequate, 1 percent surplus. Stock water supplies: 48 percent very short, 30 percent short, 22 percent adequate, 0 percent surplus.

Missouri – The condition of the dormant winter wheat crop ranges from fair to excellent with the majority rated good. Stock water supplies continue to be short across portions of the State.

Montana – Subsoil moisture: 25 percent very short compared with 14 percent last year; 35 percent short, 38 percent last year; 39 percent adequate, 44 percent last year; 1 percent surplus, 4 percent last year.

Nebraska – Wheat conditions rated 14 percent very poor, 36 percent poor, 38 percent fair, 12 percent good, and 0 percent excellent. Hay and forage supplies rated 11 percent very short, 38 percent short, 51 percent adequate, and 0 percent excellent.

Oklahoma – Although the precipitation for the last 30 days has been above normal, statewide precipitation for the period since September 1st was only 63 percent of normal, ranging from 55 percent of normal in the North Central district to 77 percent of normal in the Panhandle.

Texas – Pastures conditions were generally good in East Texas while much of the range and pastureland across West and South Texas suffered severely due to dry, windy conditions. In areas with limited grazing availability, livestock producers were supplementing with hay and protein.

View the full Weekly Weather and Crop Bulletin online.

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