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Drought conditions intensify in Kansas, most of the Corn Belt sees little change

Nearly three-quarters of Kansas is reporting dry conditions, a level the state has not dropped below since the beginning of the year. Some 74% of the state reports it is abnormally dry while a little over 2% is experiencing exceptional drought.

Situated in Lyon County, Leffler Farms, Inc. is fortunate to be one of the few not currently affected by drought conditions. Yet, Jacquelyne Leffler, who works alongside her dad, Bill, raising corn, soybeans, wheat, and cattle, says that wasn’t the case just a few months ago.

Coming out of winter, Leffler says their area was very dry, to the point where they weren’t sure it was safe to burn pasture, a common practice in the Flint Hills of Kansas to rid fields of weeds and dead plants and encourage new growth without using chemicals. Burning season begins in early March, and Leffler says many farmers, themselves included, went ahead with the burn.

“Almost everyone in our area burned pastures this year,” Leffler says. “That tells me they believed moisture was coming or maybe they were gambling a bit.”

Located in the eastern part of the state, Leffler says they have been lucky, receiving some rain almost every week for the past month. While they are seeing plenty of moisture, low soil temperatures have kept them out of the fields until recently.

“We just started planting this week because we haven’t had the higher temperatures to warm up the ground,” Leffler says. “We are sitting anywhere between 48˚F. and 54˚F. during the day, but temperatures are still dropping pretty low at night. Our goal is to reach around 50˚F. for an entire 24-hour cycle.”

Typically, by this time in the planting season, the corn would have been in the ground and the Lefflers would have switched over to soybeans. They’d have also been getting ready to move their cattle to pasture. 

“Instead, we’re just getting started planting corn,” she says. “It can be hard some days, but you have to be flexible and find the silver lining.”

This past week most of Kansas received no precipitation. Barber County on the southern edge reported the most precipitation, with an average of 1 inch. The northeastern quadrant of the state received precipitation, averaging .5 inches for the week. Morris County, where Leffler is currently planting, received about .5 inch. 

Leffler says their soils hold moisture well, but depending on the field, they can also dry out quickly. “I have just a little bit of soil sticking to my tires still, which is a good sign going into planting,” she says.

The April 18 Crop Progress Report indicated Kansas topsoil moisture levels were rated 33% very short, 30% short, 36% adequate, and 1% surplus. Kansas subsoil levels were rated 32% very short, 34% short, 34% adequate, and 0% surplus.

While Leffler Farms, Inc. is not in a county considered to be dry or in drought conditions, there is ground 30 to 50 miles in any direction that needs some moisture. With the state’s expanding drought acreage, it could get drier.

The southwestern corner of the state saw the most expansion, as extreme conditions spread to four additional counties. More than 15% of the state reports extreme conditions. About 35% of the state reports severe conditions, mostly concentrated on the western half of Kansas. 

Map of Kansas for April 21 Drought Monitor
Photo credit: U.S. Drought Monitor

Below are what other states across the Corn Belt are experiencing.

ILLINOIS

Map of Illinois for April 21 Drought Monitor
Photo credit: U.S. Drought Monitor

Illinois saw a slight reduction in drought acreage this week. Moderate conditions were reported in about 7% of counties, seeing no change from the previous week. Just under 3% of the state reported abnormally dry conditions, concentrated in the northern half of the state. Overall, 10% of the state reported abnormally dry conditions or worse.

Between April 12 and 19, the state received an average of 1.75 inches of precipitation. The southern tip of the state reported the most precipitation, with Alexander and Pulaski counties reporting 4 inches. The northern half of the state reported less precipitation, with Boone and Winnebago counties reporting less than .5 inches of precipitation.

Illinois topsoil moisture levels were rated 1% very short, 3% short, 40% adequate, and 56% surplus, according to the April 19 Crop Progress Report. Illinois subsoil levels were rated 2% very short, 5% short, 54% adequate, and 39% surplus.

IOWA

Map of Iowa for April 21 Drought Monitor
Photo credit: U.S. Drought Monitor

Iowa’s drought acreage pushed farther north this week; several counties in the northwest corner reported abnormally dry conditions. Two western counties, Woodbury and Monona, have been reporting severe drought conditions since March 15. Moderately dry conditions account for 21% of the state. Overall, about 65% of Iowa suffered from abnormally dry conditions or worse.

The northern edge of the state received the most rain, with totals averaging 2 inches in Winnebago, Worth, Cerro Gordo, and Hancock counties. The rest of the state saw lower numbers, averaging around .75 inches. Several counties in the northwestern corner and the center of the state both received the lowest totals, less than .25 inch.

Iowa topsoil moisture levels were rated 7% very short, 22% short, 66% adequate, and 5% surplus, according to the recent Crop Progress report. Iowa subsoil levels were rated 11% very short, 33% short, 54% adequate, and 2% surplus.

MINNESOTA

Map of Minnesota for April 21 Drought Monitor
Photo credit: U.S. Drought Monitor

Minnesota’s drought reduced acreage this week, primarily in the eastern edge of the state. Several counties on the western edge of the state reported abnormally dry conditions for the first time since October 2021. About 2% of the state reported areas of moderate drought. Overall, 34% of the state reported abnormally dry conditions or worse.

The eastern half of the state reported the most precipitation; Lake and Cook counties in the north reported over 2 inches and Filmore in the south reported 3 inches. The eastern half of the state reported the least precipitation, with Rock, Nobles, Jackson, and Cottonwood in the southwest corner reporting less than .25 inches.

Minnesota topsoil moisture levels were rated 2% very short, 9% short, 68% adequate, and 21% surplus. Minnesota subsoil levels were rated 3% very short, 20% short, 69% adequate, and 8% surplus.

MISSOURI

Map of Missouri for April 21 Drought Monitor
Photo credit: U.S. Drought Monitor

Almost no drought conditions were reported in Missouri this week, though acreage did expand. A portion of Atchison County in the northwestern corner and Barton County in the west were abnormally dry, accounting for less than 1% of the state.

Between April 12 and 19, the northwest side of the state received an average of .4 inch of precipitation. The southeast side saw an average of 3 inches, with counties in the far southeast corner reporting up to 7 inches of precipitation. Laclede County in the center of the state reported over 4 inches of precipitation, significantly higher than its neighboring counties. 

The April 18 Crop Progress Report noted that Missouri topsoil moisture levels were rated 1% very short, 2% short, 71% adequate, and 26% surplus. Missouri subsoil levels were rated as 1% very short, 7% short, 77% adequate, and 15% surplus.

NEBRASKA

Map of Nebraska for April 21 Drought Monitor
Photo credit: U.S. Drought Monitor

Nebraska saw an intensification of drought conditions in the center of the state. A band of counties in the middle report extreme conditions, accounting for 22% of the state. About 99% of the state reports abnormally dry conditions or worse.

A majority of Nebraska received no precipitation between April 12 and 19. The southeast corner reported an average of .5 inch, with Otoe County receiving the most precipitation, averaging .75 inch. One county in the west, Kimball County, also received some precipitation, totaling less than .25 inch. 

Nebraska topsoil moisture levels were rated 46% very short, 38% short, 16% adequate, and 0% surplus. Nebraska subsoil levels were rated 41% very short, 42% short, 17% adequate, and 0% surplus.

INDIANA

Map of Indiana for April 21 Drought Monitor
Photo credit: U.S. Drought Monitor

Indiana remained drought-free in the seven-day period, with no dry or drought warnings since October 5.

Between April 12 and 19, the state saw 1.5 inches of precipitation, on average. In the south, Posey, Harrison, and Perry counties received the most precipitation, averaging 2.75 inches. In the north, Lake and Porter counties reported slightly more than .25 inch, the lowest in the state. 

The April 18 Crop Progress Report indicated Indiana topsoil moisture levels were rated 0% very short, 1% short, 55% adequate, and 44% surplus. Indiana subsoil levels were rated 1% very short, 2% short, 59% adequate, and 36% surplus.

OHIO

Map of Ohio for April 21 Drought Monitor
Photo credit: U.S. Drought Monitor

Ohio has not reported any drought conditions since the beginning of 2022, and conditions remain unchanged. The state has reported no worse than abnormally dry conditions since January 2020.

The state saw an average of 1.5 inches of precipitation between April 12 and April 19. Richland and Morrow counties in the center of the state reported over 3 inches, the most in the seven-day period. The northwestern corner reported an average of less than .75 inches, the least precipitation reported. 

Ohio topsoil moisture levels were rated 0% very short, 0% short, 57% adequate, and 43% surplus. Ohio subsoil levels were rated 0% very short, 0% short, 61% adequate, and 39% surplus.

SOUTH DAKOTA

Map of South Dakota for April 21 Drought Monitor
Photo credit: U.S. Drought Monitor

South Dakota reported almost no change in drought acreage. The middle section of the state reported severe drought conditions, accounting for 45% of the state. Overall, 81% of the state reported abnormally dry conditions or worse.

From April 12 to 19, most of the state reported little to no precipitation. Several counties scattered across the state reported high concentrations of precipitation; Buffalo, Hyde, and Hughes counties in the center of the state reported over 3 inches, and Corson County in the north reported over 1.5 inches. Brown and McPherson counties reported an average of 11 inches this week.

The April 18 Crop Progress Report showed South Dakota topsoil moisture levels were rated 21% very short, 39% short, 35% adequate, and 5% surplus. South Dakota subsoil levels were rated 23% very short, 39% short, 35% adequate, and 3% surplus.

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