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High temperatures sweep Corn Belt as drought expands

March used to be the month Paul Hodgen would do preseason preparations and fieldwork before any seed went in the ground. It's been about five years since Hodgen has seen a March where that was possible.

"I recently asked my neighbor when was the last time he remembers a "normal" planting season. He told me those days are long gone," Hodgen says.

Hodgen is a corn, soybean, and wheat farmer in Roachdale, Indiana. While Hodgen just finished planting, he says it went much slower this year. Typically, he is finished several weeks sooner.

"We got zero farming done in March. Because we didn't get hardly any planting done in April, that month was pretty much a washout. Then it all hit at once," Hodgen says. "Basically, the recap for 2022 is we're waiting for 2023."

Indiana’s cold winter turned into a cold spring, and the soil took a long time to warm up to a temperature acceptable for planting. Then a hot flash hit, and Indiana was close to setting a record daily high. Tuesday reached 94 degrees, just one degree short of the 2013 record of 94. 

"It's going to be a shock to the corn, and really speed growth along," Hodgen says. "However, it is also condensing our spraying window, which means less time to get all our in-crop applications done."

If the corn gets too high, Hodgen can still apply nitrogen and urea with a high-clearance machine, but he won't be able to see how much damage the 100-degree heat did to his crops until the combine comes in the fall.

Map of drought conditions for Indiana for June 16
Photo credit: U.S. Drought Monitor

Indiana’s abnormally dry conditions expanded into three additional southern counties – Harrison, Floyd, and Clark, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Dry conditions account for 6% of the state.

The state's northern half averaged two and a half inches, with Stueben, LaGrange, and Elkhart counties receiving the most rain at almost 4 inches. The southern half of Indiana reported closer to three-quarters of an inch, with counties in the southernmost corners reporting next to no rain.

Indiana reported four days suitable for fieldwork. USDA says 97% of the state's corn has been planted. The five-year average at this point was 94%. 

The Crop Progress Report indicated Indiana topsoil moisture levels were rated 0% very short, 7% short, 76% adequate, and 17% surplus. Indiana subsoil levels were rated 1% very short, 6% short, 80% adequate, and 13% surplus.

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

SOUTH DAKOTA

Map of drought conditions for South Dakota for June 16
Photo credit: U.S. Drought Monitor

Michael Cronin finished planting this week, along with about 97% of other South Dakota corn farmers. It was a long haul to get there, as severe drought conditions in April kept most farmers out of the field. 

“All of a sudden, we started getting little rains here and there toward the end of April,” Cronin says. “By the time I was ready to start planting corn, we had been getting timely rains. But we haven't been getting saturated.”

In Gettysburg, Cronin grows winter wheat, spring wheat, oats, soybeans, sunflowers, and corn. Unlike many farmers, he doesn’t switch his crops often and sticks to a rotation for conservation. Because of that, his planting plans didn’t change when conditions changed from dry to damp, he just had to wait until the fields dried off.

The state's northwestern corner averaged two inches of precipitation this past week. The center of South Dakota reported the most rain, with Stanley and Hughes counties receiving just over four inches. The southern edge and northeast corner both reported the least rain, under half an inch.

Cronin also raises cattle, and the lack of moisture made him concerned about how his pastures would grow.

"Our cool-season grass was in real trouble. The grass that normally grows in April and May isn't going to be very good, but the warmer season grasses are coming on like gangbusters and are really looking good," Cronin says. "Because the early grass didn't get the growth we wanted, we are having to rotate cattle out of our pastures quicker than we would in a normal year."

South Dakota reported a lessening in drought intensity last week. Four counties that previously reported extreme conditions – Zebach, Haakon, Stanley, and Jackson – now report severe conditions. About 23% of the state reported moderate conditions, 12% less than the previous week. Overall, 54% is abnormally dry or worse.

USDA noted that the state had five days suitable for fieldwork last week. Those days allowed producers to get 97% of their corn in the ground, 3% more than the five-year average. 

The June 13 Crop Progress Report showed South Dakota topsoil moisture levels were rated 3% very short, 13% short, 67% adequate, and 17% surplus. South Dakota subsoil moisture levels were rated 4% very short, 18% short, 66% adequate, and 12% surplus.

IOWA

Map of drought conditions for Iowa for June 16
Photo credit: U.S. Drought Monitor

Iowa reported a slight decrease in drought acreage last week. The state’s severe drought expanded from three counties to six, with Ida, Cherokee, and Buena Vista noting areas of increased drought. Moderate conditions expanded by 1%, while abnormally dry conditions reduced by 2%. Overall, 28% of Iowa reported abnormally dry conditions or worse.

Most of the state reported about three-quarters of an inch of precipitation in the past week. The southern half of the state reported the most rain, with Wayne County reporting three and a half inches. Other southern counties also received higher rain totals, averaging two inches. In the north, Clayton County noted almost no precipitation. 

With about four days suitable for planting last week, Iowa farmers are 99% finished with corn planting, on track with the five-year average.

According to the Crop Progress report released on June 13, Iowa topsoil moisture levels were rated 2% very short, 9% short, 79% adequate, and 10% surplus. Iowa subsoil moisture levels were rated 3% very short, 16% short, 75% adequate, and 6% surplus.

ILLINOIS

Map of drought conditions for Illinois for June 16
Photo credit: U.S. Drought Monitor

Illinois reported an increase in drought acreage this week. Abnormally dry conditions have expanded by 5% in the southern and eastern parts of the state. Seventeen percent of the state reports abnormally dry conditions or worse.

A majority of Illinois reported little rain this past week, with averages of around half an inch in the east and one inch in most of the rest of the state. However, a few counties received high totals. In the southernmost tip, counties reported almost six inches of precipitation. Hancock County in the west noted three inches of precipitation. A strip of northernmost counties reported about two inches. 

Illinois farmers could get into the field for about five days last week. Corn planting progressed to 98% planted, 4% ahead of the five-year average.

The most recent ​​Crop Progress Report had topsoil moisture levels rated 1% very short, 11% short, 85% adequate, and 3% surplus for Illinois. Illinois subsoil moisture levels were rated 1% very short, 8% short, 86% adequate, and 5% surplus.

KANSAS

Map of drought conditions for Kansas for June 16
Photo credit: U.S. Drought Monitor

Drought intensity slightly decreased this week. Extreme conditions were reduced by 2% in the southwestern corner. About 10% of Kansas reports severe conditions. Just over 58% have abnormally dry conditions or worse. 

Kansas remained divided on rainfall this past week. The northeastern and southwestern corners both reported less than half an inch of rain. Areas in the southeastern and northeastern corners averaged an inch of precipitation. Norton County in the north received the most precipitation – four inches.

Despite only having three days available to do field work, Kansas farmers are on track with the five-year average for planting, with 96% of corn in the ground.

The agency also indicated Kansas topsoil moisture levels were rated 13% very short, 16% short, 56% adequate, and 15% surplus. Subsoil moisture levels were rated 18% very short, 20% short, 53% adequate, and 9% surplus.

MINNESOTA

Map of drought conditions for Minnesota for June 16
Photo credit: U.S. Drought Monitor

Minnesota reported no change in drought conditions. Only four counties in the south reported abnormally dry conditions – Faribault, Freeborn, Martin, and Jackson – accounting for under 2% of the state.

Most of Minnesota reported less than three-quarters of an inch of precipitation. The southern edge received more rain, an average of two and a half inches. Areas of St. Louis and Lake counties in the north reported just over three inches.

Producers in Minnesota could get into their fields for five days this week. The USDA reported that 98% of Minnesota corn was planted, just 1% behind the five-year average. 

According to the Crop Progress Report, Minnesota topsoil moisture levels were rated 0% very short, 4% short, 71% adequate, and 25% surplus. Minnesota subsoil moisture levels were rated 0% very short, 3% short, 73% adequate, and 24% surplus.

MISSOURI

Map of drought conditions for Missouri for June 16
Photo credit: U.S. Drought Monitor

For the first time since the beginning of May, Missouri reported abnormally dry conditions. Nine counties – Oregon, Shannon, Reynolds, Carter, Iron, Wayne, Madison, Perry, and Cape Girardeau – report dry conditions, accounting for 3% of the state.

The state's northern corner – Nodaway and Worth counties – reported the most precipitation, at three and a half inches. The southern half of the state received the least precipitation, averaging half an inch.

USDA reported three days last week suitable for fieldwork with 96% of corn planted, 1% behind the five-year average.

The Crop Progress Report noted Missouri topsoil moisture levels were rated 0% very short, 4% short, 72% adequate, and 24% surplus. Missouri subsoil moisture levels were rated as 0% very short, 3% short, 86% adequate, and 11% surplus.

NEBRASKA

Map of drought conditions for Nebraska for June 2
Photo credit: U.S. Drought Monitor

Nebraska reported a decrease in drought acreage. About 3% of the state experienced extreme conditions. Thirty-five percent of the state reported moderate drought, 5% less than the previous week. Overall, 90% still have abnormally dry conditions or worse.

Most of Nebraska reported an average of half an inch of precipitation. The state's southwestern corner received the most rain, with Otoe and Nemaha counties reporting around three inches. The rest of the southwestern corner averaged an inch and three quarters.

There were four days this past week suitable for fieldwork. Nebraska farmers have completed corn planting, 1% ahead of the 5-year average.

Nebraska topsoil moisture levels were rated 9% very short, 24% short, 65% adequate, and 2% surplus, according to the Crop Progress Report. The subsoil levels were rated 13% very short, 30% short, 56% adequate, and 1% surplus.

OHIO

Map of drought conditions for Ohio for June 16
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 two and a half inches of precipitation last week. In the north, Ottawa, Sandusky, and Seneca counties reported five inches, the highest in the state. In the northwestern corner, counties reported just under two inches.

About two days were suitable for fieldwork last week. USDA reported that 93% of corn had been planted in the state, 3% higher than the five-year average.

Ohio topsoil moisture levels were rated 0% very short, 1% short, 57% adequate, and 42% surplus. Ohio subsoil moisture levels were rated 0% very short, 1% short, 57% adequate, and 42% surplus.

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