Focus on Ag

2012 Drought Being Compared to 1988


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Ask most current farmers over 40 years old in the Upper Midwest about the worst drought that they remember, and 1988 would be a common response. However, that could potentially change after this year, as the drought in many areas of the Midwest in 2012 is setting up to be quite severe. Large portions of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Ohio, Missouri and other states are indicating potential for major crop losses, while growing areas of Nebraska, Minnesota and South Dakota are facing serious extended dryness that could lower crop yields.

As of July 9, only 40% of the U.S. corn crop was rated good to excellent, which was a drop of 16% in the past two weeks, while 30% of the corn was rated poor to very poor. A year ago in early July, 69% of the U.S. corn crop was rated in good-to-excellent condition. In the July 9 crop condition report only 40% of the U.S. soybean crop was rated in good-to-excellent condition, which compares to 66% at the same time a year ago. In 1988, the good-to-excellent crop rating dropped below 20% for both corn and soybeans in early July.

In Illinois, only 19% of the corn was rated good to excellent, and 48% was rated poor to very poor in the crop conditions report released on July 9. In Indiana, only 12% of the corn was rated good to excellent, which was the lowest corn rating since 1988, and 61% is rated poor-to-very poor. In Nebraska, which has a large amount of irrigated corn acres, only 47% of the corn was rated good to excellent, which is well below the five-year average of 80% good to excellent in early July. Iowa’s overall corn condition has also been dropping rapidly; only 46% was still rated as good to excellent on July 9, which was a drop of 16% in just one week.

Minnesota has been the only major corn-producing state that has maintained a strong rating for corn conditions since the start of the growing season. As of July 9, 77% of the corn crop in Minnesota was rated as good-to excellent; however, that high rating level dropped 5% from a week earlier, following an extended period of hot, dry weather in many areas of the state. Seventy-two percent of Minnesota’s soybean crop was rated good-to-excellent as of July 9.

The week of July 2-8 featured very high temperatures in most of Minnesota until late in the week, with several record temperatures being set across the state. Much of the state remained very dry, with only minimal rainfall; however, there was some significant rainfall on July 5 in southern portions of southwestern Minnesota, as well as some isolated rainfall in a few other locations. Crops on lighter soils, which received little or no rainfall during the week, began to show significant crop stress by week end. Crops on heavier soils in very dry areas continued to survive and look quite well, drawing on the ample subsoil moisture that resulted from above normal rainfall earlier in the growing season. However, the stored soil moisture is being rapidly depleted, and much of the soil moisture is below the 2-ft. level in the soil profile.


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