Fundamentally Speaking

End of March Palmer Drought Ratings

As the 2014 U.S. growing season gets set to start, we thought it would be interesting to look at subsoil moisture readings for the top 21 corn and soybean producing states.

Recall a year ago a large portion of the key row crop growing regions were extremely dry coming off the horrific 2012 drought.

Fortunately, heavy and in some cases record spring rains erased much of the severe subsoil moisture deficiencies paving the way for close to trend yields for the 2013 corn and soybean crops.

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This came at the expense of some intended ground that could not get planted due to the excess moisture but it may have been worth it.

The accompanying chart shows the end of March Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI) readings for the past three years for the top corn and soybean states.

The PDSI index generally ranges from -6 to +6, with negative values denoting dry spells and positive values indicating wet spells.

There are a few values in the magnitude of +7 or -7. PDSI values 0 to -.5 = normal; -0.5 to -1.0 = incipient drought; -1.0 to -2.0 = mild drought; -2.0 to -3.0 = moderate drought; -3.0 to -4.0 = severe drought; and greater than - 4.0 = extreme drought.

This graphic has a lot of interesting features starting with all 21 states have negative PDSI readings at the end of March 2012 ranging from mild to severe drought and in retrospect presaged the major drought that formed in the mid-section of the i three states; IL, MO, and MS deteriorating by more than 1.00 with only TX suffering more than moderate drought.

The though recent hard red winter wheat ratings would suggest otherwise, there has been substantial improvement in PDSI readings in the Plains states of CO, KS, NE, and SD.

Of note, the Dakotas are actually very wet suggesting a late start to seedings once again following up on last year’s tardy seeding pace.


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