Ag Weather Forum

Dry Potential in Midwest

Bryce Anderson
By  Bryce Anderson , DTN Senior Ag Meteorologist
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Not just the Plains, but also the western and central Midwest soils have deficits of 1 to 4 inches of rain just ahead of summer. (NOAA graphic)

During this spring season, headlines about dryness and drought -- justifiably so -- have focused on the calamity in the Southern Plains and the southwestern U.S., along with the Canadian Prairies. But, the past couple months have seen a large portion of the Midwest turn quite dry, as well. Southeastern Nebraska, northeastern Kansas, the northern half of Missouri, southern Iowa, and the central half of Illinois are short in varying amounts on soil moisture. As of May 22, the deficits calculated by the NOAA Climate Prediction Center were in the range of 1 to 4 inches.

Individual producers are noting the same thing. One grower, Daryl Obermeyer from southeastern Nebraska, related that center-pivot irrigation systems have been used this week to wet the ground in order for soybean seeds to sprout. "I have creeks that generally carry water (that) are running dry," he noted in an email.

Obermeyer's situation typifies the have and have-not characteristic of Midwest rainfall this season. There have been some very heavy totals in the north-central Midwest, to the point that producers were wondering if planting would ever get done on some acreages. But, a notably drier trend has been a feature south of Interstate 80 for awhile. Thirty-day total precipitation has been no more than half the normal totals for much of the southern half of the Midwest. And, this is all occurring at a time when temperatures typically warm up and plants move into growth stages. So, evaporating and evapotranspiration rates go up as well. It's a real challenge for soil moisture levels to increase enough to overcome a deficit at this stage. In fact, one benefit of the very cold April that occurred was that plant growth did not take place, thus conserving some soil moisture.

And, speaking of temperatures, readings that are more like mid-July than late May are setting up for the holiday weekend. Mid-90s Fahrenheit are in store for central Iowa; low 90s are headed for the astoundingly-warm Canadian Prairies; the western half of Texas will top 100. This kind of heat this early in the season may quite likely bring some stress to crops outside of the already-hard-hit Southern Plains wheat belt. A watchful and nervous stretch is developing as we finish out May.

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