The final full week of August was a dry one. More than half the mainland U.S. saw a goose egg in the rain gauge. The most visual impact of this dryness was in the Far West, where wildfires and smoke-laden air were featured every day. Dryness damage continues to hammer the western U.S.
Crop country had its issues, too. In the eastern Midwest, precipitation was also almost non-existent. This recent dryness validates the worries voiced when fields were flooded by record-setting rainfall back in June; that, come late summer, crops that had puny, shallow root development because of the ample moisture in the top soil layers would wind up starving at the end with no development and extension into deeper levels. That occurrence showed up; coverage of corn dying prematurely is extensive in the ag media. Even mild weather in states such as Illinois and Indiana has not been enough to ward off the impact of this late-season drought.
It's not just the eastern Midwest with this later development problem, either. A drier trend in the central and western Plains has been sneaking up on crops. Even though most of the production in these areas is done under irrigation, there is still enough cropping done without the benefit of center-pivot assistance that a drier -- and hotter -- trend can make an adverse difference. Another term for non-irrigated crop farming is "dryland" -- and this past week fit that description to a T.
Not all areas suffered during the final go-round of the month. The northwestern Midwest had some moderate to locally-heavy rain, which brought finality in a positive way to the crop season. And, in the Delta and Southeast, corn harvest got into high gear with decent yields. But, at the end of the week, there are still some big questions over just how well harvest 2015 will perform -- even with a robust El Nino in place.
Bryce Anderson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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