Drought Conditions Cease in Eastern Corn Belt

February 26, 2013 02:56 AM

The historic 2012 drought is far from over, but it has at least subsided in parts of the country.

According to the Palmer Drought Index, a weekly update from the Climate Prediction Center the measures rainfall, temperature and historic data, the majority of the eastern Midwest and Southeast is no longer suffering from drought conditions.

The current map:

Palmer Drought Index 2 23

Brad Rippey, USDA meteorologist, reports that 55.82% of the country still in drought. "But we’ve knocked out the eastern Corn Belt."

While the country at large had some pretty good rains from November through January, we haven’t had much relief until this week in the Midwest, he says.

The good news is current drought conditions should not weigh too heavy on corn yields. "There’s very little relationship between drought this time of year and output for corn," Rippey says. "We’ve had other years, like 2000 in Iowa, when there was drought this time of year and the eventual outcome was good. The real difference is what happens in late spring and early summer."

Too Late for Wheat

Unfortunately, extremely dry conditions persist for much of the western Corn Belt and South, from the Dakotas down to Texas. Read more: Drought in Western Corn Belt, Plains Likely to Persist

Wheat-growing areas are among some of the hardest hit, and Joe Glauber, USDA chief economist, reports that the crop may be beyond hope. "Tthe Midwest still has persistent dryness. We could be facing some serious abandonment for hard red wheat spring crop."

Current crop conditions ratings are grim. "Weighted by seed area, the hard-red winter wheat states of Kansas, Nebraska, and Oklahoma have 50% of their wheat crop rated in poor to very poor condition compared to just 10% at this time last year. Spring rains will be especially important in the Great Plains this year where elevated levels of abandonment are expected."

David Cleavinger, a Texas wheat producer, reports on Twitter that lack of rain has them watering wheat. "We need a March blizzard. This patch will go for silage instead of grain."

Texas wheat

Nationally, wheat production is expected to be 2.1 billion bushels, down 7.4% from 2012. "The decline is attributed to higher abandonment rates and a return to trend yield from last year’s record level," Glauber says.

-- AgWeb's Boyce Thompson contributed to this story

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Spell Check

2/26/2013 11:07 AM

  I and a multitude of other observers doubt the voracity of the Palmer Index. If my conclusions are correct the Index ratings are based on precipitation amounts necessary to change the rating. This may or may not accurately reflect the amount of water that entered the subsoil. Judging by the number of times major tributaries to the Lake Erie basin and other areas that flow to the Ohio, we have not recovered very much subsoil moisture. The areas with the most no-till acreage are by far the worst offenders of stream bank overflow. '13 will tell again the same story that we saw in '12 on no-till acres. Does anyone really think that the yield depression in '12 was due solely to the lack of rainfall during the '12 crop year? The fact is that the same eastern corn belt no-till producers who complain about mudding on nitrogen for the wheat complain about how dry the wheat ground is 3 to 4 feet down by mid-July. No way corn should be headed for $4. It should be a weather market right now. Wheat in KS and CO along I-70 from 30 miles west of the MO border is toast. Never germed in places and if it did it is dead and buried in the blowing soil as of three weeks ago when I saw it.


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