Ag Weather Forum

Notable Northern Corn Belt Drought

Bryce Anderson
By  Bryce Anderson , Ag Meteorologist Emeritus
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A large majority of the corn acreage in the Dakotas and Michigan have drought in effect going into summer. (USDA graphic)

USDA's weekly Agriculture in Drought report keeps a prominent note of caution in play when it comes to assessing the moisture conditions for the 2021 corn crop. The report, with conditions as of May 25, identifies 24% of the U.S. corn acreage in some phase of drought. Drought categories are: Moderate Drought; Severe Drought; Extreme Drought; and Exceptional Drought. Those correspond to levels D1-D2-D3-D4 on the U.S. Drought Monitor. The Drought Monitor D-zero, Abnormally Dry, category is not part of the Agriculture in Drought report parameter.

The breakdown of drought shows that Michigan leads the total corn acreage affected by drought, with 99% -- 87% in D1 or Moderate Drought and 12% in Severe Drought (D2). North Dakota's corn acreage is listed as 88% in drought. Eleven percent of the North Dakota corn acreage is assessed in D1 or Moderate Drought; 50% in Severe Drought (D2); 22% in Extreme Drought (D3) and 5% in Exceptional Drought (D4). South Dakota's total corn acreage has 75% in drought with 63% in Moderate Drought (D1); 8% in Severe Drought (D2); and 4% in Extreme Drought (D3).

Elsewhere in the primary corn production states, Iowa has 45% of its corn acreage noted in drought, with 35% Moderate (D1) and 10% Severe (D2). Wisconsin's corn acreage noted in drought is at 42%, all in Moderate Drought (D1). Minnesota's corn acreage is classified as having 28% in drought, all in Moderate Drought (D1).

Outside of the central U.S., 70% of North Carolina's corn acreage is listed in drought and 14% of the Texas corn acreage is classified as having drought in effect -- which includes 10% in either Extreme (D3) or Exceptional (D4) drought. In the northwestern U.S., all the corn acreage identified in production reports is in drought.

The fact that Abnormally Dry (D0) conditions are not included in this report is significant, because there were several areas in the northern Corn Belt which were placed in the D0 status as of May 25. That means the drought acreage number could potentially increase in the next report.

Another noteworthy detail is the almost-entire exclusion of the Plains states of Nebraska and Kansas from the ranks of corn acreage in drought. This is a testimony to the recent rain that has fallen. Kansas has just 5% of its corn acreage listed in drought. Nebraska only has 1% of its corn acreage in drought.

Forecasts through the first few days of June have only light rainfall for the northern Corn Belt states. The total amounts indicated run mostly from 1/10 to 1/2 inch. Daily evapotranspiration amounts are around one-quarter inch for these northern states; thus, the forecast suggestion is for continued drying and little to no significant crop benefit.

Bryce Anderson can be reached at bryce.anderson@dtn.com

Follow him on Twitter @BAndersonDTN

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