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Drought impacts lessen a little but outlook is still bleak

WDAY meteorologist John Wheeler said conditions have worsened in other places, including Minnesota and northcentral Iowa. The deep moisture profile, he said, shows that there simply has not been enough rain.

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The U.S. Drought Monitor says rainfall in northcentral North Dakota is "finally helping to chip away at the long-term drought that has plagued the state since fall of 2020."

However, WDAY meteorologist John Wheeler said conditions have worsened in other places, including Minnesota and northcentral Iowa. The deep moisture profile, he said, shows that there simply has not been enough rain.

Soils remain dry throughout much of the region, the Drought Monitor says. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has reported that 92% of South Dakota and 76% of North Dakota’s topsoil moisture is short to very short, leading to limited hay production and stunted crop growth.

The Drought Monitor noted that Montana recorded less than 25% of normal precipitation in June, which is typically the highest precipitation month.

"Impacts include diminished forage production and infestations of grasshoppers," the report said.


Wheeler expects more bouts of extreme heat in July, including possible 100 degree days. That's coupled with few expectations of moisture in the region, while places like the south and the Corn Belt could see substantial rainfall.

"Rain will fall over areas that have plenty of moisture," he said.

drought monitor 7-8-21.jpg
The U.S. Drought Monitor released on July 8, 2021. (U.S. Drought Monitor)

Here is a state-by-state look at this week’s drought monitor:

Iowa: While the overall percentage of Iowa in drought conditions decreased slightly since last week, from 85.6% to 82.89%, severe drought increased slightly, from 35.62% to 37.89%.

Minnesota: Severe drought took a big jump in Minnesota this week, with the percentage of the state in that category up to 39.7%, compared to 11.4% last week. Another 53.25% is in moderate drought, while 7.04% is abnormally dry.

Montana: Drought conditions continue to worsen across Montana, with the entire state now in some type of drought condition. Extreme drought jumped from 19.94% last week to 25.9% this week. Another 39.33% is in severe drought, 19.11% is in moderate drought and 15.66% is abnormally dry.


Nebraska: Little changed about Nebraska's drought conditions, aside from a slight increase in overall percentage of the state in drought conditions. Extreme and severe drought percentages were identical to last week, at 0.94% and 3.79% respectively, while moderate drought went from 10.62% to 16.71%. That state is considered abnormally dry in 47.5% of land, compared to 47.95% last week.

North Dakota: While North Dakota remains the state in the region with the worst drought conditions, things did improve just slightly from last week. Exceptional drought dropped from 17.68% to 11.78%, and extreme drought dropped from 43.09% to 40.1% Severe drought was at 39.73%, up from 30.12%, and moderate drought was 8.39%, compared to 9.11% last week.

South Dakota: Extreme drought in South Dakota climbed from 12.98% to 17.82% this week, while severe drought, moderate drought and abnormally dry conditions all decreased slightly. Only 0.96% of the state remains out of drought conditions.

Wisconsin: Conditions in Wisconsin did not change significantly since last week. The Drought Monitor shows that 1.46% improved from moderate drought to abnormally dry, putting 32.25% in moderate drought now and 29.52% in abnormally dry. A pocket of extreme drought in the far southeast makes of 0.81% of Wisconsin, while 1.38% remains in severe drought. More than a third of the state is in no drought category.

Jenny Schlecht is the editor of Agweek and Sugarbeet Grower Magazine. She lives on a farm and ranch near Medina, North Dakota, with her husband and two daughters. You can reach her at jschlecht@agweek.com or 701-595-0425.
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