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Drought Likely to Worsen in Northern Plains, Patches of Midwest

The Midwest is dividing into three regions as the growing season continues this summer, and it appears these divisions will grow more prominent throughout the summer.

The areas are:

  • The northern Plains, including the Dakotas and Montana, where hot, dry weather has caused a drought that ranges from moderate to extreme. Shown at right, the soybeans in Wilmot, South Dakota, are thirsty for a rain.
  • The west, south-central Midwest – eastern Nebraska, southern Iowa, and southern Illinois – where dry conditions are being picked up on the drought monitor and some areas are beginning to move into a moderate drought.
  • The northeastern Midwest, spanning from Minnesota, down through Iowa, and across Illinois into Indiana, where growing conditions are much more favorable.

Much-Needed Rain

“The rains this week have gone a long way in improving soil moisture in a lot of places,” says Dan Hicks, meteorologist at Freese-Notis Weather.

While most of the Midwest is going to get some precipitation, there are a few places that will be left out or only get minimal amounts, including southwest Minnesota, northwest Iowa, northeast Nebraska, and southeast South Dakota.

Rain chances during the next 48 hours are greatest for Indiana, Ohio, and southern Michigan, where .5 to 1.5 inches are forecast. “As you move farther west, the amounts tend to be lighter and more spotty,” says Hicks. “There is still the possibility for some beneficial amounts in drier pockets of Iowa, eastern Nebraska, and the southern half of Illinois.”

Northern Plains

As the drought monitor has been updated each week this summer, the yellow patch indicating dry conditions has continued to creep across Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota as the center has turned darker and darker. Unfortunately for farmers in these states, it doesn’t look like this will improve anytime soon.

“It’s hard to imagine this getting better based on what the weather looks like,” says Hicks. “I think the drought index will show worsening conditions through late July.”

For the rest of this month, the forecast is continuing to indicate below-normal rainfall combined with above-normal temperatures, says Hicks. “There will be periods when hot weather flairs up for three to four days and then cools back down,” he says. “I don’t see much opportunity for the spring wheat crop to improve up there.”

The condition of spring wheat in this area is already significantly behind other states. For the northern Plains, North Dakota brings up the lead with 36% in good-to-excellent condition, Montana 11%, and South Dakota with only 10%, according to the USDA’s weekly crop progress report. By comparison, 85% of Minnesota’s spring wheat is in good-to-excellent condition.

The North Dakota/Minnesota border has picked up some rain in the past 24 hours. In addition, this region will have a slightly cooler temperature pattern with slightly better chances for rain moving forward.

While conditions in the Northern Plains do look to be a littler cooler and wetter in August than they will be for June/July, Hicks cautions against being too optimistic. “There will be a slight improvement, but that isn’t saying much. I’d be really hesitant to say growing conditions would improve much,” he says.

The rest of the Midwest

The areas with the greatest danger of stressful conditions for corn and soybean conditions – based on insufficient rainfall and the number of days where temps pass 90°F. – appear to be southwestern Minnesota, eastern Nebraska, parts of western and southern Iowa, eastern Kansas, Missouri, and the southern half of Illinois. “Given the soil moisture situation currently, these areas may not get enough rain to keep up with crop needs,” says Hicks, adding that the areas may receive some, just not enough, rainfall.

Moving farther north and east, Mother Nature will please farmers with more favorable growing conditions. “These areas had better rains this week, soil moisture is better, and they will have fewer days of high temperatures,” explains Hicks.

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