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Is Drought a Threat for Farmers This Summer?

No, drought will most likely not be an issue for the majority of farms across the Midwest, says Dan Hicks, meteorologist at Freese-Notis Weather. However, drought conditions could continue to threaten crops in the northern Plains as well as pockets of the Corn Belt that have missed key rains this spring.

As shown in the drought monitor below, parts of eastern Montana and a central swath of the Dakotas is now in a severe drought. The entire state of North Dakota is classified as a moderate drought to dry conditions with those ratings rolling into South Dakota, Montana, and Minnesota.


In the past 30 days, parts of this region have received only 10% to 25% of normal rainfall, according to the National Weather Service. While eastern North Dakota has had areas with 100% to 150% of normal rainfall, these rains are only improving the short-term conditions, says Hicks. “While there’s been some improvements in the eastern part of the northern Plains, they still have long-term moisture deficits,” he says.

In addition, Hicks doesn’t foresee rain moving in anytime soon. “I don’t think the northern Plains’ prospect is really good for a major rainfall in the near future,” he says. “For the next one to two weeks, the forecasts indicate below normal rainfall, especially in the western areas.

“Drought conditions could potentially continue to get worse in eastern Montana and some of the bordering areas with crop conditions worsening as well,” he says. Corn conditions are already weaker than the national average, according to Monday’s USDA Crop Progress Report. The national average for corn in good to excellent condition is 67% while North Dakota comes in at 61% (compared to 86% last year), Montana at 52% (compared to 67% last year), and South Dakota all the way down at 49% (compared to 74% last year).

Pockets of Concern

Like in the northern Plains, there are pockets across the Midwest that have missed crucial rainfall events. One of these areas, shown in the drought monitor below, is a portion of northern Missouri, south-eastern Iowa, and northern Illinois. While these states have received rainfall in the past week, it has been highly variable.


“Places like Burlington, Iowa, only had six- or seven-tenths of an inch while Quincy, Illinois, had more than 2 inches,” says Hicks.

A system moving across the Midwest this weekend looks like it will miss this area, again. But long-term prospects for rain are improving. “Rain chances increase middle to late next week through the fourth of July. This active weather pattern brings good chances of rain across the Midwest,” he says. “In general, I see these drier pockets getting smaller, but perhaps not eliminated.”

Chances for Rain

That first system moving through the Midwest this weekend will bring rain into the northern Midwest and the Ohio Valley. Areas in the north will receive .5 to 1.5 inches with scattered heavier amounts. This includes southern Minnesota, northern and central Iowa, northern Illinois, southern Wisconsin, and lower Michigan. The Ohio Valley, specifically southeastern Missouri, southern Illinois, the southern half of Indiana and Ohio, and northern Kentucky, can expect .5 to 2 inches of rain with some locally heavier, says Hicks.

“The rest of the Midwest has a chance of a quarter to three-quarters inch of rain through the end of the weekend,” he adds.

Moving into July, Hicks sees temperatures 1 to 2 degrees above normal and rainfall close to average. “I don’t think July will be an extreme month for the Midwest. While there may continue to be localized areas that need a good rain further into July, I don’t see widespread adverse conditions,” he says.

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