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Farm country drought worries rising
It's drying up in the Plains and Corn Belt, and the trend -- that could be just getting started -- has a lot of farmers and grain market participants a little worried.
"Soil moisture below the first inch and a half isn't too bad yet, but the ground is starting to turn into concrete," says Agriculture.com Marketing Talk senior contributor Blacksandfarmer, who farms in south-central Michigan. "Soybeans planted 10 days ago are having a hard time busting through crusted ground."
The dryness is creeping north from the southern Plains and Delta, where the latest indications are that soil moisture levels are dwindling and rainfall chances over the next few weeks are slim, says Craig Solberg, ag meteorologist with Freese-Notis Weather, Inc., in Des Moines, Iowa.
"The long-term drought index still indicates significant drought conditions in parts of southeastern Alabama, Georgia, Florida and South Carolina, but recent rains in some areas have at least help meet short-term crop needs in parts of the Southeast," Solberg says. "In the near term, only parts of the Carolinas will see significant rainfall into early next week, with only scattered light amounts in most other locations. Even longer term most of the Delta and Southeast will likely have below normal rainfall for the 6-10 day period, with near to above normal amounts confined to the far eastern areas."
And, as that trend heads north, it could heighten the risk of potential crop damage for parts of the Corn Belt that have already been on the dry side for much of this spring.
"It has been a while since we have seen a daily rainfall over half of an inch as shown by the featured chart. Portions of east-central Iowa have gone over a month without such a rainfall based on estimated rainfall totals," according to a report Friday from the Iowa Environmental Mesonet. "While the dry weather has been beneficial to help get the crops planted, we certainly could use some rain to help the plants get off to a good start."
Adds Solberg: "Below normal rainfall is forecast for most of the Midwest for the 6-10 day period, with normal amounts only in the far northwest. Above normal temps are forecast in most days into extended period. This weather pattern will continue to dry soils in most areas and increase concerns for early crop development."
Right now, the U.S. from about the central Corn Belt to the west coast is virtually split in 2, with the area from northern Nebraska north having slightly better chances of above-normal precipitation versus the area stretching from Ohio to Oklahoma to the west coast, which has greater chances of below-normal rainfall in the next week to 10 days, according to the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center.
The precipitation outlook map from the National Weather Service's 6-10 day outlook shows below-normal rainfall is likely through much of the southern Plains and Corn Belt.
Looking beyond the next week and a half, forecasters expect the largely dry conditions to persist in the Plains and eastern Corn Belt. While it will be a blessing for those in the former region, it could be rough on farmers in the latter.
"The cooler readings across the Midwest will slow crop growth a bit, while warmer conditions in the Plains will accelerate wheat growth," says Don Keeney of Gaithersburg, Maryland-based MDA EarthSat Weather. "Our precipitation outlook is trending wetter across the northwestern Plains, which will help maintain moisture for spring wheat and will also improve moisture a bit for late growth of winter wheat across the west central Plains."