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Northern Plains May Feel Effects All Year From Scant Spring Rains

Spring and early summer are the wet season for the Northern Plains, a cattle-grazing, wheat- and corn-growing region, so the dry start to this year’s growing season could have a lasting impact, says the weekly U.S. Drought Monitor. Some 67% of North Dakota, 51% of South Dakota, and 27% of Montana are in moderate to extreme drought.

North Dakota rivals Kansas as the leading wheat state in the country, growing spring and durum wheat, while Kansas specializes in winter wheat. The weekly Crop Progress Report lists 24% of North Dakota spring wheat in poor or very poor condition and 64% of South Dakota spring wheat as poor or very poor.

Some parts of the Northern Plains receive half to two thirds of their annual precipitation from May through July, says the Drought Monitor. In southwestern North Dakota and northern South Dakota, rainfall has been 4 to 8 inches below normal over the past six months. In the western Dakotas, “late spring and early summer rains are critical to dryland farming and livestock grazing and cuttings of pasture and range grasses,” it said.

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