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According to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor, valid October 9, nearly two-thirds (63.55%) of the contiguous U.S. remains in drought. However, this is down nearly two percentage points from the late-September peak of 65.45%, as recent rains across the South and East have chipped away at the drought. At the same time, drought continues to gradually intensify across the northern Plains, where rangeland and pastures remain in dismal condition and winter wheat emergence has been hampered by a lack of soil moisture.
On October 14, USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service indicated that Nebraska led the nation with 97% of its rangeland and pastures rated very poor to poor. Nationally, that figure stood at 55% on October 14, down from a record high of 59% very poor to poor in August and early-September 2012. Meanwhile, winter wheat emergence was more than 20 percentage points behind the five-year average in South Dakota (11% emerged versus the average of 67%), Nebraska (47 vs. 77%), Montana (25 vs. 53%), and Colorado (51 vs. 72%).
USDA/NASS also reported that the U.S. corn harvest is advancing at a record-setting pace, with 79% of the crop cut by October 14. The previous October 14 record of 66% was established in 1987. USDA’s pre-drought estimates for U.S. corn were for a production of 14.8 billion bushels and a yield of 166.0 bushels per acre. The Crop Production Report, issued by USDA’s Agricultural Statistics Board on October 12, reported an expected production of 10.7 billion bushels and a yield of 122.0 bushels per acre. The latter figure would represent the nation’s lowest corn yield since 1995.
Meanwhile, late-season rainfall – including the remnants of Hurricane Isaac – clearly aided soybeans across the mid-South and lower Midwest. In the October 12 report, USDA’s soybean estimate rose 2.5 bushels per acre from the previous month to 37.8 bushels per acre. Still, the October soybean estimates of 2.86 billion bushels of production and 37.8 bushels per acre are well below USDA’s pre-drought estimates of 3.21 billion bushels and 43.9 bushels per acre.
Weather Update and Outlook: Seasonal precipitation is finally underway in the Northwest, improving prospects for fall-sown small grains. Until recently, parts of the interior Northwest had not received any measurable rainfall since July. Some of the precipitation has begun to spill across the Rockies to the northern Plains, but more moisture is needed across the northern hard red winter wheat belt to ensure proper crop emergence and establishment. During the next few days, a slow-moving storm will produce widespread precipitation (generally one to two inches) from the Mississippi Valley into the Northeast, but will largely bypass the High Plains region. Looking ahead to next week, mild weather will cover the nation, except for a turn toward cooler conditions in California and the Northwest. Widespread precipitation will accompany the cooler air as far south as central California. Eventually, precipitation will also spread eastward across the nation’s northern tier, but mostly dry conditions will prevail across roughly the southern half of the U.S.
Help those impacted by the drought through our Drought Code Sprint. Submit your apps by October 24!