DES MOINES (AP) — The storm system that left Colorado dealing with historic flooding dropped rain across a large swath of the nation last week, helping to alleviate drought conditions in Iowa and Nebraska, the author of a weekly national drought monitoring report said Thursday.
The rain was too late to help most corn and soybean fields, however. Rainfall during the growing season has been spotty, leaving some farmers with a dismal harvest. However, others beginning to bring in their crops are reporting surprisingly good results.
“There will be lot of variability out there field to field and even within a field,” said Mark Licht, an Iowa State University field agronomist. “The rains we got here were welcomed, but they just didn't add much to that yield potential because the crop growth had progressed so far already.”
Early harvest reports from soybean farmers in central Iowa ranged from 35 to 60 bushels per acre, Licht said. Normally soybean yields would be around 50 bushels per acre.
Early corn reports ranged from 75 to 120 bushels per acre in central Iowa, lower than the 170 to 180 bushels in a normal year in Iowa. But some farmers on the eastern edge of the state have reported an eye-popping 260 bushels an acre.
The percentage of the nation's corn and soybeans in drought has fallen 1 percentage point, said Brad Rippey, a meteorologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, who wrote this week's drought report.
About 54 percent of the corn crop and 44 percent of soybeans were in drought conditions that were characterized as moderate or worse.
The corn and soybean growing areas that did get timely rain will probably bring in enough to compensate for the areas struggling with drought, so the USDA is still predicting a record U.S. corn harvest of 13.8 billion bushels and the fourth-largest U.S. soybean harvest of 3.15 billion bushels.
The weekly report, released Thursday, said 45 percent of the United States was in moderate drought or worse, a decline from 48 percent the week before. The report said 38 percent of the nation had no drought, an improvement of about 4 percentage points from the week before.
The monitor tracked conditions from Sept. 17 to Tuesday.
In Iowa, 5 percent of the state was experiencing no drought, an improvement of about 2 percentage points from the week before. Abnormally dry areas fell from 24 percent to 16 percent of the state, and the percentage of the state in moderate drought fell 10 points to 41 percent.
The severe drought area fell 6 percentage points to 36 percent.
In Nebraska, the area of the state in extreme drought fell from 21 percent a week ago to 11 percent. That's the smallest area in extreme drought since July 2012. Severe drought rose, however, from 40 percent to 50 percent. Other drought categories changed slightly.
The area of the state with no drought was 1.8 percent, an improvement from 1.2 percent week before. It applied to portions of three counties on the state's western border.
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