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Percent of Land Area in Drought Edges Up Slightly

After several weeks of decline, drought steals back some land area

Published on: May 9, 2013

Much like the past several weeks, a clear line of demarcation exists between drought and non-drought areas on the latest U.S. Drought Monitor, released Thursday.

But unlike recent conditions, the percentage of the contiguous U.S. in some form of drought edged forward just a bit this week, rising from nearly 47% last week to 48% this week.

Weather systems came and went last week, dropping moderate to heavy rains on portions of the Mississippi and Tennessee Valleys, Southeast and Florida. Farther north, late May snows fell on portions of the Midwest and as far south as Arkansas. However, the drought-damaged West and southern Plains received just trace moisture, according to the Drought Monitor.

Rainy weather impeded planting in parts of the Corn Belt last week.
Rainy weather impeded planting in parts of the Corn Belt last week.

The Midwest received a significant dosing of rain and snow last week from a stationary storm that pulled moisture from the Gulf of Mexico. Some areas experienced record-setting precipitation, and rising groundwater levels.

However, the moisture is also impeding planting in key corn and soybean states. According to USDA Meteorologist Brad Rippey, planting is "phenomenally slow," with the percent of the corn crop planted at its lowest level since 1984.

Soybean planting is behind five-year averages as well, he noted. The crop is 2% planted by May 5, with the five-year average at 12%.

The Delta and southern Plains were relatively dry last week, resulting in few changes to the Drought Monitor. The dry conditions in the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles have exacerbated short-term moisture benefits and have reverted to long-term shortages.

In Texas, just 2% of the cotton crop is in the ground, compared to a five year average of 16%, USDA said.

The Plains continue with hit and miss showers, while below normal temperatures kept further drought degradation at bay. Winter wheat crops continue to deteriorate, USDA said, with 39% overall rated poor to very poor, up from last week.

Percent of Land Area in Drought Edges Up Slightly

The U.S. Drought Monitor for the week ending May 7 (top) shows dry conditions increasing in parts of Texas and the West. This, compared to the Drought Monitor for the week ending April 30 (bottom), shows a significant separation from conditions of the eastern Corn Belt.

Luckily parts of the Western Plains – namely in Nebraska and some of Wyoming and Colorado – enough rain fell to shrink drought and improve moisture deficits. However, in eastern Nebraska, topsoil and subsoil moisture is still lackluster.

Drought also continues into the West, after a good start to the moisture year in November and December gave way to driest-on-record precipitation percentiles in parts of Oregon, California, Nevada and Montana from January-April. Many drought degradations were noted across the region this week.

One bright spot, however, is that California weather has allowed farmers to plant 90% of the state's cotton crop, USDA said.

From May 9-13, wet weather is expected across the East, but not most of the West and Southwest.

To read the complete report, visit the U.S. Drought Monitor webpage.

Post-Drought Soil And Fertility Issues
Just what has the drought left behind for the 2013 crop? And what steps do you need to take to get land ready for planting? Download our FREE report, 5 Post-Drought Strategies For A Better 2013.