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Drought receding in the Midwest

Jeff Caldwell 03/14/2013 @ 4:55pm Multimedia Editor for Agriculture.com and Successful Farming magazine.

From the deep South to the Great Lakes, a large swath of the country's emerged from the drought that ripped through crop and livestock potential last year. Now, the most severe drought conditions remain centered on central and western Nebraska, southwest through Kansas and eastern Colorado.

Thursday's version of the U.S. Drought Monitor shows the area under some form of drought condition fell by 5% from the previous week. Now, just over 50% of the area from Minnesota to Kentucky -- comprising the main Corn Belt region -- is under drought ranging from moderate to extreme.

Though about the western 1/3 of the Corn Belt remains either abnormally dry or under drought conditions, the moisture picture is much better than it was at the start of 2013; As of January 1, almost 72% of the Midwest was under drought stress. Now, that number's shrunk to just shy of 51%.

Looking ahead, the driest of the droughted areas, as well as those where drought's no longer an issue, should see more moisture relief over the next few days, according to Harvey Freese of Freese-Notis Weather, Inc., in Des Moines, Iowa. Though the former area won't see as much moisture as the latter, it should generally be enough to show another cutback in the area immersed in drought by next week's Drought Monitor update.

"On Saturday, light rain is forecast for the western wheat region (Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska) with rain amounts mostly 0.10" to .25" however some isolated 0.50"-0.75" rains may occur over northwest Kansas," Freese said Thursday. "Spotty showers are forecast eastward across southern Kansas and northern Oklahoma Saturday night toward Missouri. Much heavier rainfall is forecast for southern Missouri and northern Arkansas Saturday night and Sunday with rainfall amounts of 0.50" to 1.00" moving eastward across Kentucky on Sunday. Fieldwork and corn planting could be delayed across the northern Delta this weekend."


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