U.S. Drought Monitor shows drought conditions worsen

Farm Forum

The U. S. Drought Monitor, released April 30, 2015 shows drought conditions have continued to worsen across South Dakota – accompanied by substantial agricultural impacts.

“Outlooks do hold out some hope for precipitation in the near term to hold the line against further worsening,” said Dennis Todey, SDSU Extension climate specialist & South Dakota state climatologist. “But the overall outlook for drought improvement is limited.”

Todey explained that the monitor showed South Dakota taking a big step in degrading drought status with a large area of Severe Drought (D2), through the middle of the state.

“This is the first Severe Drought level since October 1, 2013, when the last D2 area was removed from Fall River County in the southwest part of the state,” Todey said.

Currently, 16 percent of the state is in the Severe Drought category; with more than 77 percent of the state in some form of drought, Moderate or Severe. “This is an increase from 69 percent over last week,” Todey said.

Todey explained that the increase in coverage was due to several factors which impact the agriculture sector. “The precipitation deficit is not only short term, but extends back to the fall of 2014 in much of the state. Much of eastern South Dakota has measured less than 25 percent of normal precipitation since October 1,” Todey said. “Impacts have started to appear throughout the state that are advancing the worsening drought issues.”

Drought impacts on winter wheat

Winter wheat has been damaged by dry conditions in the fall as well as lack of snow cover in the winter and the dry spring which contributed to winterkill. The latest USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) report showed 33 percent of winter wheat in poor to very poor conditions and another 44 percent as only in fair condition.

Crop insurance reports over the last two weeks have indicated fields in the central part of the state are total losses.

“Individual reports have noted that some small grains may need replanting because of dryness in certain areas. Despite soil temperatures well into appropriate levels, corn planting has reportedly been delayed because of dryness concerns. Irrigators have been noted running already in certain areas,” said Laura Edwards, SDSU Extension climate field specialist.

Edwards added that rangeland conditions are beginning to show the continue lack of precipitation and are slow to green up. “Concerns about forage for cattle are also starting to surface from ranchers because of the limited grass potential,” she said.

Also from the USDA NASS report, 69 percent of soil moisture in the state is reported as short to very short. This is the third largest percentage of any state in the country behind California and Nevada.