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Weather favors Corn Belt harvest activity, U.S. Drought Monitor report

Short-term dryness has begun to expand across the southern and eastern Midwest.

While on the dry side, recent weather across much of the country favored summer crop maturation and the beginning of harvest and winter wheat planting, according to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor map and report released Thursday morning. 

The conditions released today are based on data that is current as of 8 a.m. EDT this past Tuesday.

This week’s USDA Crop Progress Report showed that more than one-third (37%) of the U.S. corn was fully mature, while 38% of the soybeans were dropping leaves vs. respective five-year averages of 31% and 29%. 


“Short-term dryness (D0) has begun to expand across southern and eastern sections of the region, favoring summer crop maturation but reducing topsoil moisture. Meanwhile, long-term drought issues persisted across the upper Midwest, despite some recent rainfall,” according to Thursday’s U.S. Drought Monitor report. 

As of Sunday, the USDA reported that topsoil moisture was at least one-third very short to short in each Midwestern state except Wisconsin, led by Indiana (47%). 

During the week ending September 12, very short to short topsoil moisture values increased by more than 10% in Indiana and Ohio. In contrast, locally heavy rain was observed in the Great Lakes region, particularly across portions of Michigan and Wisconsin. 

Elsewhere, lingering impacts from summer drought left 63% of Minnesota’s pastures in very poor to poor condition on September 12, according to the Drought Monitor.

High Plains

Short-term dryness and drought has become more apparent in recent weeks across the southern section of the region, including parts of Kansas and Colorado, aggravated by periods of late-summer heat, according to this week’s Drought Monitor report. 

Across the High Plains, September 10-11 featured consecutive triple-digit, daily-record highs in communities such as McCook, Nebraska (102°F. and 104°F.); Goodland, Kansas (103°F. and 102°F.); and Burlington, Colorado (101°F. and 100°F.). Dodge City, Kansas (105°F. on the 11th), achieved a 105-degree reading in September for only the third time on record, following 106°F. on September 3, 1947, and 107°F. on September 1, 2011, according to this week’s Drought Monitor report. 

“Farther north, there were some adjustments (mostly improvements) to the drought depiction, primarily in the Dakotas, based on favorable impacts from recent rain events. For example, improvements in topsoil moisture have led to some greening of drought-affected pastures and have encouraged winter wheat producers to begin planting,” authors of the Drought Monitor stated Thursday. 

Still, the USDA reported Monday that topsoil moisture was 64% to 71% very short to short in the Dakotas, while rangeland and pastures were rated 77% to 80% very poor to poor, reflecting the long road ahead regarding drought recovery, according to the Drought Monitor report. On Monday, USDA’s statewide reports indicated that topsoil moisture on the High Plains ranged from 39% very short to short in Nebraska to 79% in Wyoming.

Looking Ahead

A pattern change in the Pacific Northwest will result in cooler weather and widespread showers, starting on Friday. 

“During the weekend, cool, showery weather will spread eastward across the nation’s northern tier — reaching northern sections of the Rockies and High Plains — and southward into northern California. However, generally dry weather will persist from central and southern California to the central and southern High Plains,” the Drought Monitor report stated.

Six- to 10-Day Outlook

The NWS six- to 10-day outlook for September 21-25 calls for the likelihood of below-normal temperatures from the Great Basin to northern sections of the Rockies and High Plains, while warmer-than-normal weather will prevail along and east of a line from southeastern Arizona to Minnesota, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor report. 

“Meanwhile, below-normal precipitation across much of the western half of the U.S. should contrast with wetter-than-normal conditions in the Pacific Northwest and from the Mississippi Valley eastward, excluding the northern Atlantic States,” the report stated.

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