Drought Breakdown: An update on Missouri River and Southern crop conditions

Despite some overall improvements in the Upper Missouri River Basin, runoff is expected to be below average this year.

That is due to the ongoing drought conditions in the region. The forecast has Sioux City at 21.5 million acre feet, which is 84% of the average. That prediction is based on current soil moisture conditions, long term precipitation, temperature outlooks, as well as Plains and Mountain snowpack. Runoff in the basin above Sioux City was one million acre feet last month, which is 86% of a typical year.

Taking a look now at the areas along the Missouri River in the just released U.S. Drought Monitor, conditions are unchanged from the previous week and are still covered in varying levels of drought along the river.

However, farmers in the Midwest saw record rainfall this week and the Great Lakes and Northeast received some snow! Precipitation was scarce for producers in the West, but drought conditions still improved there due to weather events from week’s past, getting rid of almost all exceptional and extreme levels of drought.

As for the deep South, producers are facing record setting warmth. In fact, USDA Meteorologist, Brad Rippey, says spring has come exceptionally early this year, with crop development running two to four weeks ahead of schedule.

“With that warm weather and a lot of crop moisture demand, that is leading to some deteriorating crop conditions across the deep South. We’ve seen accelerated crop development in the deep South. In Texas for example, 20% of the intended corn acreage planted by last Sunday, March 5th, and that is well ahead of the five year average of 13%. Already in Texas 14% of the intended sorghum acreage planted,” says Rippey.

As for crop development, 19% of winter wheat in the Lone Star state has already headed, which is nearly twice the five year average pace of 10%. 22% of Texas’ oats have headed, where the five year average is also just 10%

Cooler temperatures are in the forecast for the Midwest and those conditions could help slow down early plant and weed growth.

An Illinois climatologist says this is welcome news for farmers because it reduces the risk of spring freeze damage. Looking to the past, some of the warmest winters have lead to late spring freezes like in 2012 and 2017. While the cooler and wetter weather will allow for better row crop weed management, the climatologist says field work may be delayed the next couple of weeks.

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