OMAHA (DTN) -- Nebraska corn growers can look forward to at least enough topsoil moisture to get crops germinated and into early growth stages this spring thanks to heavy rain and snow during the week of April 8.
That's a big change from a week ago when three-quarters of the state was classified in "Exceptional" or Stage 4 drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. But after the storm -- which brought from one to four inches of rain to the primary crop areas of central and eastern Nebraska -- just 15% of the state is in the worst drought category.
"This was a pretty decent event, the largest statewide in well over a year," said Nebraska state climatologist Al Dutcher. "And on the Drought Monitor assessment, the primary focus was soil moisture recharge."
Soil moisture improvement is indeed tangible. Dutcher confirmed that all the main row-crop areas of the state now have moisture for spring planting and early growth.
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"All areas east of a line from Dundy County (southwest) to Holt County (north-central) made it to field capacity in the top 12 inches of the soil profile," Dutcher said. At field capacity, seeds have moisture to germinate and sprout. "Essentially all areas in this section of the state have a minimum of 20% moisture available in the five-foot profile, or 25% of available soil moisture in the four-foot profile."
Even the dry areas of the Nebraska Sandhills saw improvement, Dutcher noted. "Many of these areas with two- to four-inch precipitation deficits are now less than an inch to two-inch deficits. We've basically shaved from 30% to 50% off the deficits in dry areas of the eastern Sandhills," Dutcher said.
Another benefit from the topsoil reloading is that the need for irrigation may be put on hold until almost early summer. "If we get normal precipitation from now on, then irrigation could hold off until late May to early June," Dutcher said.
However, there is still plenty of drought in Nebraska. Ninety-four percent of the state is listed in "Extreme" or Stage 3 drought. "Compared to the same period last year, we're still in bad (drought) shape," Dutcher said. "This is a singular event and the public needs to understand that it's easier to move from D4 to D3 than it is from D3 to D2," Dutcher said. "Going forward we need to receive another five- to six-tenths (of an inch) weekly in the eastern half of the state just to stay status quo."
According to USDA, Nebraska is third in the nation in corn production, behind Iowa and Illinois.
Bryce Anderson can be reached at Bryce.firstname.lastname@example.org
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