Western Corn Belt can’t shake drought woes

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click image to zoomDrought MonitorDrought Monitor map released on March 21, 2013. The start of spring this week brought renewed hope for producers across the nation’s heartland as another round of snow and rain set its sights on the parched region. However, despite the return of much-need moisture, Thursday’s Drought Monitor report showed only slight shifts in the nation’s drought conditions.

Nearly 52 percent of the country is in severe or worse drought, compared to 51 percent last week.

Across the Corn Belt, conditions range from drought-free Ohio to Nebraska, where 100 percent of state is experiencing some sort of severe drought. Though earlier this year most wet system bypassed the country’s driest states, a surge of moisture in late February has continued into March.

Now, with another storm bearing down on the region, hope is again renewed that the drought can at least be suppressed for the time-being.

Unfortunately, this week most states on the dry Plains reported little or no change in drought conditions:

  • Nebraska: The driest state in the Union, Nebraska remains dry for another week. Currently 76 percent of the Cornhusker State is in exceptional drought, unchanged from last week.  The Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service (AHPS) reports that the state has received less than 3 inches of precipitation since the beginning of the year.
  • South Dakota: After reporting a positive shift for drought conditions, the Drought Monitor had no changes to South Dakota’s drought report. Sixty-seven percent of the country is in extreme or worse drought.
  • Kansas:  Over the last few Drought Monitor reports, the Sunflower State has seen the biggest shifts of drought than other states. The welcomed return of moderate drought to the eastern corner of the state has renewed hope to a wetter spring. There’s a long way to go before soil will fully be replenished – 21 percent of Kansas is in exceptional drought.
  • Oklahoma: The Sooner State was the only state to see improvement this week, with extreme to exceptional drought dropping by 4 percentage points to 53 percent. Unfortunately, intense drought still dominates western Oklahoma.  
  • Texas: Drought is continuing to creep into the Lone Star State. Ten percent of Texas is in exceptional drought, and while the return of this intense drought leaves many producers preparing for the worst, it is still a far cry from the 88 percent reported in October 2011. However, hues of red and maroon are slowly working their way through the central areas of the state. 

See how your state is doing here.

It’s going to take more than a few rain showers to make up for the drought in these Plains states, however. According to Bloomberg, Mark Svoboda, the University of Nebraska-based climatologist, believes that an above-average rainfall is needed to replenish the soil, but producers can likely expect a deficit heading into planting season.

“We need a big spring, that’s the bottom line, because we don’t have the carryover going into 2013 we had going into 2012,” Svoboda said.

Read more here.

In the central and eastern Corn Belt, however, an excess of rain and snow is causing headaches as well. As of Monday, the National Weather Service reported that several rivers were at or near flood-stage in Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and Missouri.

According to The Weather Channel, the flooding risk marks an ironic end to a winter “spent fretting about drought.” Just one month ago, officials were warning that barge traffic on the Mississippi River could be restricted as water levels continued to drop.

"It's certainly a lot different of a picture than three or four weeks ago," National Weather Service meteorologist Jayson Gosselin told The Weather Channel.

Read, “Parts of Drought-Stricken Midwest Flood.”

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March, 22, 2013 at 11:24 AM

Wow, most of the products that corn is being used for these days (biodeisel, ethanol, cooking oil, cattle feed) could be replaced by hemp which needs a lot less water, simple organic fertilizer and no pesticides. It also can be used for lumber, paper products pulp, clothing fiber, rope fiber, plastics, food, and health and beauty products.

Iowa  |  March, 25, 2013 at 09:00 AM

Yeah, that's a great idea, lets start using hemp in food products.

terra  |  March, 26, 2013 at 09:24 AM

More rain will fall if another, new crop is introduced or if, somehow, genetically modified corn is completely wiped off the planet.

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