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April 11, 2013

How Should We View the On-going Drought in the United States?

At the peak of the 2012 drought, more than 2,255 counties had been declared disaster areas and approximately three quarters of the U.S. corn and soybean crops was impacted by the drought. Generally speaking, the drought conditions in the eastern Corn Belt have been eliminated, at least for the time being, but there has only been limited improvement in the western Corn Belt.

The states where the drought has been mitigated, at least for now, include: nearly all of Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan, including most of the mid-south, the Delta, and the Southeast.

The areas where the drought is still a concern includes: western Iowa, southwestern Minnesota, southeastern South Dakota, all of Nebraska, and much of Kansas and Colorado. If you wanted to identify a "ground zero" for the on-going drought, it would have to be the state of Nebraska.

Portions of the western Corn Belt received rain over the weekend, so even in these dryer areas, there will probably be enough topsoil moisture for planting and crop establishment. The concern is going to be later in the summer when the corn crop starts to draw moisture out of the subsoil. In all likelihood, the subsoil moisture in the western Corn Belt will be limited going into the summer. If that does turn out to be the case, then the need for timely rains and a lack of prolonged heat will be critical. That will especially be the case if the corn planting is delayed this spring because delayed planting pushes pollination back into what is generally a hotter and dryer period of the summer (see earlier article).

There will be little room for error in the western Corn Belt this summer. Timely rains and an absence of extreme heat will be necessary in order to avoid disappointing corn yields.