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Mild drought relief in the Corn Belt as planting season approaches

Some states in the Corn Belt saw some improvement in their drought conditions this week. With winter storms moving across the Midwest and precipitation only putting a dent into the dryness, the drought is still in full effect according to the Drought Monitor.

As planting season approaches, farmers are concerned about planting crops with the soil moisture levels the way they are. 

“Other parts of the Midwest have received snow, but we have been very dry so far,” says Kelly Garrett, an XtremeAg farmer from Arion, Iowa. “That means we can plant earlier, but I am concerned about the lack of subsoil moisture. I hope to have some moisture before we head to the field.”

Subsoil moisture can be a key indicator of yield, and late-winter or early spring precipitation is a critical factor. When the fall has been dry, pre-planting spring precipitation can bring moisture levels back to normal, according to Iowa State’s Department of Agronomy. 

READ MORE: La Niña roars back; more drought is ahead

Iowa

Map of Iowa for Feb 24 Drought Monitor
Photo Credit: U.S. Drought Monitor

In Iowa, drought acreage decreased slightly, according to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor maps. About 28% of the state remains in moderate drought. This area spans about 46 counties across the center of the state. A majority of counties in the state reported abnormally dry conditions. Overall, about 81% of the state reported suffering from abnormally dry conditions, or worse.

Between February 15 and February 22, the southeast tip of the state saw the most precipitation, averaging 1.25 inches. The rest of the counties saw almost no precipitation in the seven-day period.

Illinois

Map of Illinois for Feb 24 Drought Monitor
Photo Credit: U.S. Drought Monitor

Drought conditions in Illinois improved, with 8% more of the state reporting better conditions in this week’s drought maps. Severe drought conditions were reported from two counties in the northeast corner of the state, accounting for less than 1% of the state. Overall, about 24% of the state reported suffering from abnormally dry conditions, or worse.

Between February 15 and February 22, all of Illinois saw at least some precipitation. The northern half of the state saw mild precipitation, between .5 inch and 1.5 inches. The southern half of the state saw up to 5 inches of precipitation in Alexander and Pulaski counties. 

Nebraska

Map of Nebraska for Feb 24 Drought Monitor
Photo Credit: U.S. Drought Monitor

Nebraska saw worsening conditions this week. Only .05% of the state remains without a drought warning, a part of Richardson County. About 76% of the state remains in a moderate drought warning, and over 99% of the state is abnormally dry or worse.

Between February 15 and February 22, all of Nebraska reported less than .5 inches of precipitation. The eastern half of the state saw almost no precipitation, and the western half received an average of .3 inches in the seven-day period.

Indiana

Map of Indiana for Feb 24 Drought Monitor
Photo Credit: U.S. Drought Monitor

Indiana has remained drought-free this week. The state has not had any dry or drought warnings since October 5.

Between February 15 and February 22, the eastern edge of Indiana saw more than 6 inches of precipitation. The rest of the state reported an average total of about 2 inches.

Minnesota

Map of Minnesota for Feb 24 Drought Monitor
Photo Credit: U.S. Drought Monitor

Overall, the drought acreage in Minnesota decreased by 7%. Six counties in the northeast reported severe drought, accounting for 7% of the state. Many of the counties in the north and east part of the state report areas of moderate drought, about 22% of the state. Overall, 66% of the state reported abnormally dry conditions, or worse.

Between February 15 and February 22, the northern half of Minnesota received an average of 1.5 inches of precipitation. The southern half received almost no precipitation, averaging about .75 inches in the seven-day period.

Kansas

Map of Kansas for Feb 24 Drought Monitor
Photo Credit: U.S. Drought Monitor

There was almost no change in drought acreage in Kansas this week. Severe conditions cover about 6% of the southwestern corner of the state, and 41% of the state reports moderate conditions. Overall, 86% of the state reported abnormally dry conditions, or worse.

Between February 15 and February 22, most of Kansas reported almost no precipitation. The eastern edge reported just over 4 inches in their heaviest totals, with most of the eastern side reporting between .5 inch and 1.5 inches. 

South Dakota

Map of South Dakota for Feb 24 Drought Monitor
Photo Credit: U.S. Drought Monitor

South Dakota saw little change in drought conditions this week. About 43% of the state reported moderate drought conditions, and 10 counties reported severe drought conditions, accounting for 22% of the state. Overall, 81% of the state reported abnormally dry conditions or worse.

Between February 15 and February 22, most of the state reported less than 1 inch of precipitation. The southeastern part of South Dakota had received no precipitation in the seven-day period.

Ohio

Map of Ohio for Feb 24 Drought Monitor
Photo Credit: U.S. Drought Monitor

Ohio reported no drought conditions this week. The state has reported no drought conditions since the beginning of 2022, and has reported no worse than abnormally dry conditions since January of 2020.

Between February 15 and February 22, the state received an average of 2 inches of rain. Clinton County received 3.5 inches, the most in the seven-day period.

Missouri

Map of Missouri for Feb 24 Drought Monitor
Photo Credit: U.S. Drought Monitor

Missouri’s drought acreage drastically decreased this week. The areas of moderate and severe drought reported last week account for 0% of the state this week and overall, 31% of the state reports abnormally dry conditions. That is a 14% improvement from the previous week.

Between February 15 and February 22, the southeastern corner of Missouri received almost 7 inches of precipitation, and the rest of the southern half received an average of 1.75 inches. The northern half received on average of .75 inches, with the northern edge receiving almost no precipitation over the seven-day period.

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