The long-running drought that covers more than half of the continental United States — mostly west of the Mississippi — worsened in the central and southern Plains last week, the heart of U.S. winter wheat production, said the government’s Drought Monitor on Thursday. Kansas is the No. 1 winter wheat state. Kansas was the No. 1 winter wheat state. 31% of the crop was rated as in poor or very poor condition.
“Despite some snow on the High Plains … the general theme was toward gradually worsening drought conditions, especially in Kansas and Nebraska,” said the weekly report by the USDA and NOAA. Topsoil moisture was assessed as either very short or very short in 77%, 73%, and 82% of Colorado.
The drought in Oklahoma and Texas also caused winter wheat conditions to worsen in Oklahoma, Texas, and Oklahoma. More than 86% in Texas and 88% in Oklahoma were affected by drought. The drought affected nearly 60% of Kansas and 35% of Nebraska.
“Worsening drought on the Plains has also contributed to several midwinter wildfires; a few, including the Mill Creek Fire in Shackleford County, Texas — which was ignited on January 15 — torched more than 1,000 acres of brush and grass,” said the Drought Monitor. “Burn bans were in effect for dozens of counties in Oklahoma and Texas.”
Growers sowed 34.4 million acres of winter wheat, the dominant U.S. variety, for harvest this year, a marginal increase from last year. Winter wheat is grown in the fall and sown in the spring. Even though wheat is a hardy crop, it is vulnerable to persistently dry weather.
In good news for the struggling wheat crop, as much as 27 inches of snow fell in western Kansas early this week, said Lisa Teachman, chief meteorologist at KSN-TV in Wichita. “This recent moisture surplus will help farms hang on until the next decent system, which will be next week,” she said.
More than 40% of the continental United States has experienced drought for the past 70 weeks, NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information said on social media.
Overall, 68% of winter wheat territory, which stretches from the mid-Atlantic states to California and the Pacific Northwest, was in drought, said the USDA’s “Ag in Drought” website. So 78% of durum wheat, 76% barley, and 75% sorghum land were in drought. The northern Plains, California and Arizona are the main areas where durum wheat is grown. Sorghum is mostly grown in the Plains, the western Corn Belt, and the southern Rockies.
Source: Successful Farming