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Cool, Wet Spring may Ease Western Plains Drought

April 16, 2014
black clouds rain
A spring forecast of above-average rainfall in parts of the Plains region is raising hopes for a break in drought conditions plaguing much of the area.  
 
 

Rainfall is expected for much of the Central Plains, but will it reduce drought conditions in the region?
By: Nora Hertel, Associated Press

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — A spring forecast of above-average rainfall in parts of the Plains region is raising hopes for a break in drought conditions plaguing much of the area.

"It looks pretty good for conditions to improve into the early summer," said Sioux Falls-based National Weather Service hydrologist Mike Gillispie about predictions for precipitation in parts of Iowa, Minnesota and South Dakota.

Brian Fuchs, a climatologist with the National Drought Mitigation Center in Lincoln, Neb., also expects extra precipitation through April in the central and northern Plains.

But while some drought relief might be on the way, representatives from the agriculture industry and municipal water departments are still wary.

Nathan Fields, with National Corn Growers Association, said the 2012 drought showed how quickly it can set in and damage crop production.

Parts of eastern South Dakota are abnormally dry and the stretch from southern Minnesota and Iowa through Nebraska is in moderate drought, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. North Dakota , meanwhile, largely has escaped drought conditions.

Conditions worsen farther south, with parts of Texas and Oklahoma suffering through a severe and persistent drought.

Fields, the association's director of biotechnology and economic analysis, said the weather "is the biggest variable that nobody really has control over."

He said once a drought settles in, all farmers can do is hope they selected a drought-resistant seed.

Jason Kontz farms corn, soybeans and alfalfa on 2,500 acres near Coleman, S.D.

In dry times, Kontz said, "we just plant and hope for rain or try and put the seed deep enough to reach moisture in the soil."

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