Corn Belt soils remain dry, as winter approaches

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture is wrapping up its reporting period for crop progress and soil conditions. While nearly all of the crops have been harvested, the big story that remains is the amount of soil moisture as the Corn Belt moves into winter, when there is less that can soak into the soil. Following is a report on soil moisture conditions and related anecdotes reported by USDA’s 4,000 volunteer reporters.

ILLINOIS: Days suitable for fieldwork 5.0. Topsoil moisture 3% very short, 15% short, 78% adequate, 4% surplus. Subsoil moisture 16% very short, 40% short, 44% adequate.

INDIANA: Days suitable for fieldwork 5.8. Topsoil moisture 2% very short, 11% short, 80% adequate, 7% surplus. Subsoil moisture 11% very short, 28% short, 58% adequate, 3% surplus.  

IOWA: There were 6.3 days suitable for fieldwork Statewide during the past week. Topsoil moisture levels declined to 28 percent very short, 38 percent short, 33 percent adequate, and 1 percent surplus. Subsoil moisture also declined and is now rated at 60 percent very short, 34 percent short, 6 percent adequate, and 0 percent surplus. With 94 percent of Iowa experiencing short to very short subsoil moisture levels, this is the driest Iowa’s subsoil has been at the close of the third week in November since 1999.

KANSAS: Days suitable for fieldwork 6.2. Topsoil moisture 39% very short, 32% short, 28% adequate, 1% surplus. Subsoil moisture 54% very short, 34% short, 12% adequate, 0% surplus. Soybeans harvested 97%, 98% 2011, 94% avg. Range and Pasture Condition 53% very poor, 28% poor, 15% fair, 4% good, and 0% excellent.  However, precipitation is needed by all producers to sustain the newly emerged wheat crop and replenish soil moisture and livestock ponds.

MICHIGAN: Days suitable for fieldwork 6. Topsoil 3% very short, 11% short, 82% adequate, 4% surplus. Subsoil 16% very short, 24% short, 60% adequate, 0% surplus.

MINNESOTA: Days suitable for fieldwork 4.2. Topsoil moisture 27% Very Short, 42% Short, 29% Adequate, and 2% Surplus.

MISSOURI: Days suitable for fieldwork 5.6. Precipitation 0.58 inch. Topsoil moisture 15% very short, 32% short, 51% adequate, 2% surplus. Subsoil moisture supply 42% very short, 35% short, 22% adequate, 1% surplus. Pasture condition 30% very poor, 24% poor, 31% fair, 15% good. Supply of hay and other roughages 44% very short, 37% short and 19% adequate. Stock water supplies 37% very short, 40% short, 23% adequate.

NEBRASKA: Days suitable for fieldwork 6.5. Topsoil moisture 69% very short, 26% short, 5% adequate. Subsoil moisture 83% very short, 16% short, 1% adequate. The State continues in extreme drought with soil moisture profiles depleted. During the past 60 days, the western two-thirds of the State received less than one inch of precipitation. Statewide, the topsoil moisture rating is the lowest for this time of year since 1999. Due to short soil moisture supplies, winter wheat emergence continues behind average with thin and spotty stands reported. The winter wheat crop rated only 17 percent in good condition which is the poorest rating since 1990.

NORTH DAKOTA: Days suitable for fieldwork 4.1. Topsoil moisture supplies 11% very short, 35% short, 53% adequate, 1% surplus. Subsoil moisture supplies 26% very short, 37% short and 37% adequate. Stock water supplies 22% very short, 37% short, 41% adequate. Pasture and range conditions 31% very poor, 34% poor, 22% fair, 13% good.

OHIO: Days suitable for field work, 4.4. Top soil moisture 2% very short, 11% short, 64% adequate, and 23% surplus. Range and Pasture condition 13% very poor, 19% poor, 38% fair, 28% good, 2% excellent.

SOUTH DAKOTA: Days suitable for fieldwork 6.2. Topsoil moisture 53% very short, 30% short, 17% adequate. Subsoil moisture 68% very short, 20% short, 12% adequate.

WISCONSIN: Days suitable for fieldwork 6.0. Topsoil moisture 14% very short, 37% short, 45% adequate, and 4% surplus.


Most Cornbelt states are still in drought conditions, with very low levels of top soil moisture and general absence of moisture in the subsoil. The issue now becomes whether there is enough moisture for the winter wheat crop, and that is questionable.

Source: FarmGate blog

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