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'Extreme' drought growing

Jeff Caldwell 07/12/2012 @ 8:38am Multimedia Editor for Agriculture.com and Successful Farming magazine.

This week's U.S. Drought Monitor shows the 20% downward adjustment in projected corn yields in Wednesday's USDA WASDE report may be just the beginning.

Thursday's update of the Drought Monitor map shows conditions have worsened considerably in the last week. Now, all but a few pockets of the state of Arkansas is under extreme drought conditions, while most of Missouri, about 2/3 of Illinois and most of Kansas and Nebraska are under severe drought conditions. About half of Indiana and the western 1/3 of Kansas are both under extreme drought conditions. Around 2/3 of Iowa is under moderate drought, while the remainder of the state is rated abnormally dry.

Those conditions continue to feed sagging yield prospects for this year's corn crop. But, how far down can yields go? "Assuming my weather forecast is correct, the markets will continue to be given lower and lower yield forecasts to ponder; question is, how low can we go?" says Freese-Notis Weather, Inc., senior ag meteorologist Craig Solberg. "In the drought of 1988, I would estimate that national corn yields were down 25% from the long-term linear trend. A similar cut this year would mean national corn yields near 120 BPA (though the condition ratings for this year's corn crop are still well above what they were in early July of 1988)."

Looking ahead, the drought conditions will likely grow in severity most in the next week in the western Corn Belt, according to Thursday's Commodity Weather Group (CWG) Ag QUICKsheet.

"[Shower activity] is still expected to be isolated, leaving at least the southwestern 1/2 of the belt under significant moisture stress for late pollinating corn and pod-setting soybeans through the next 15 days. The driest areas should include southern Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri, western Illinois and Kansas," according to CWG.

Adds Don Keeney, senior meteorologist with MDA EarthSat Weather: "Drought conditions will continue to intensify across the central and western Midwest into the central Plains. The 6-10 day outlook offers chances for more notable improvements, especially across the Rockies into the northern Plains and northern Midwest. However, the drought will likely remain very persistent across the southwestern Midwest, northern delta, and southeastern Plains."


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