As the 2023 season progresses, the Midwest region continues to experience dry weather conditions, leaving farmers worried about their crop yield during harvest. The lack of precipitation has become a cause for concern, particularly in Nebraska and Missouri.
In Nebraska, Hannah Borg, a sixth-generation farmer in Dixon County, shares that her family's operation received some beneficial rain earlier in the spring, allowing for a normal first cut of hay this year. However, the recent absence of rain has left their farm without any reserve moisture. Without subsoil moisture and reserves for the plant roots to tap into, Borg explains that the situation can deteriorate rapidly without sufficient rain. The latest drought monitor map reveals that approximately 11% of Nebraska's land is now facing D4 exceptional drought conditions, a significant increase compared to the previous week. Additionally, D3 extreme drought conditions have risen slightly, while D2 severe drought conditions remain stable at nearly 40% of the state. These escalating drought conditions indicate a decline in the proportion of land experiencing moderate drought, and less than 1% of the land remains drought-free.
Since Borg's farm cultivates dryland corn and soybeans, rain becomes crucial for the crops to thrive. Borg emphasizes that the need for rain is not unique to their farm but a shared concern among all farmers. Farming, as she describes, is a profession of faith, where the entire community hopes for rain to support their livelihoods. Shortly after speaking with Borg for this article, her family's farm was fortunate enough to receive some much-needed rain.
Similarly, in Missouri, drought conditions have worsened compared to both the previous week and the same period last year. Dr. Tony Lupo, interim state climatologist for Missouri, notes that although the state experienced a severe drought last year, the normal precipitation during the winter provided little relief. The dry spring has exacerbated the drought conditions across the state, leading Lupo to remark that such conditions have not been seen in the past three decades. The latest drought monitor map reveals that nearly 7% of Missouri's acreage is currently facing D3 extreme drought, with over 16% in D2 severe drought, 26% in D1 moderate drought, and 30% classified as abnormally dry. Only 20% of the state remains drought-free, a significant decline compared to the previous year.
Regarding crop growth, Lupo explains that the dry weather has resulted in slower plant growth. While May brought some precipitation, it only impacted the shallow ground, offering limited relief. Lupo mentions that a few areas have received much-needed rain in the past two weeks, but the overall impact has been sporadic, with only about 10% of Missouri benefiting from the rainfall. The USDA's Crop Progress report for Missouri indicates no surplus moisture in the topsoil and only 1% surplus moisture in the subsoil. Topsoil moisture supplies are rated as 17% very short, 45% short, and 38% adequate, while subsoil moisture supplies are rated as 16% very short, 42% short, and 41% adequate.
Lupo advises farmers who have access to irrigation to utilize it as a means of mitigating the dry conditions. Unfortunately, he does not foresee any immediate relief in the next week. Despite the transition from La Niña to El Niño weather patterns, which typically brings improved conditions, Lupo remarks that the statistical expectation for improvement is not materializing this year. He emphasizes the potential impact on commodity prices if the drought continues to worsen, expressing the need for a shift in weather patterns.