Here’s a closer look at the change in drought conditions across some of the corn growing states since the last report of 2022 released on December 29.
At the end of 2022, severe drought was present in southern Illinois across portions of Alexander, Pulaski, Massac, Pope, Johnson, and Union counties covering more than 1% of the state’s acres.
D1 moderate drought was present across large swaths of north central and southern Illinois. The D1 areas totaled nearly 35% of the state.
More than 41% of Illinois was abnormally dry and less than a quarter of the state was free of drought stress.
After several measurable snow events to start 2023, the current drought map looks much different.
So far in January, more than 4 inches of snow have been reported in northern Illinois, according to the Iowa Environmental Mesonet. The most severe drought conditions in the northern half of the state have been reduced to D0 abnormally dry.
Small portions of eight counties, representing just over 1% of the state’s acres, reported D1 moderate drought in late January.
That’s an improvement from January 2022 when nearly 1% of Illinois was suffering from D2 severe drought and D1 moderate drought covered almost 5% of the state.
Of Illinois’ 102 counties, 8 have USDA disaster designations.
Essentially 100% of Indiana was suffering from some degree of moisture stress at the end of 2022. Five counties in the east central part of the state were reporting D2 severe drought conditions. Just shy of 70% of Indiana was in D1 moderate drought.
The state has received a mix of rain and snow so far in 2023.
Now, more than 47% of the state is free of moisture stress. Just under 52% of the state is abnormally dry. D1 moderate drought conditions are present in parts of three counties along the Indiana Ohio border.
Just one of Indiana’s 92 counties has a USDA disaster designation.
Brian Scott raises corn, popcorn, and soybeans near Monticello, Indiana. The most recent drought maps show his operation right on the edge of abnormally dry to no drought. Two weeks ago, the farm received 7/10 in. of rain followed by 3 to 4 inches of snow this week that have melted.
“It’s pretty muddy right now at the surface,” he says. Looking ahead to planting season he notes, “I’m usually pretty confident we get recharged for spring over the winter. No real concern here at this point.”
Steve Gauck of Beck’s Hybrids works with farmers across the state. “If we look at the eastern side of the state, with more moisture holding capacity, that’s how we survived the flash drought last summer, was we started the spring with the soil profile full of moisture. That really allowed us to maximize some yields. We need to refill it to have the same success in the coming year,” he emphasizes.
Although farmers in the Hoosier state want a replenished soil profile, the recent above freezing temperatures are creating sloppy conditions. “It would be nice to have some more frozen ground,” Gauck says. There haven’t been many sustained hard freezes this winter, he notes.
No matter how the rest of the winter unfolds, Gauck reminds farmers, “Planting windows have gotten tight. When the window happens your equipment and mentality need to be ready to go.” Preparing now will help growers take advantage of any early planting opportunities.
Drought improvement in Iowa has not been as widespread as in other corn growing regions. That’s not surprising, says state climatologist Justin Glisan, noting that January is the coldest and driest month climatologically for the state.
At the end of 2022, D4 exceptional drought was present in Woodbury and Monona counties.
A month later, at the end of January, the D4 condition hasn’t budged despite snow totals in excess of 7 inches reported by the Iowa Environmental Mesonet.
Gentry Sorenson is a field agronomist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach in the northwest part of the state. He says some early December precipitation was able to infiltrate the soil, but now the ground is frozen solid.
“With such little moisture in the soil profile the frost depth can get very deep, and can freeze up pretty fast,” Glisan explains.
Sorenson is not optimistic more snow will provide enough moisture to be of much relief. Timely rainfall closer to the spring would be more helpful to area farmers, he says. Sorenson adds, “It takes a lot of snow to amount to much liquid.” The general rule is 12 inches of snow is the equivalent to 1 inch of rainfall.
Glisan says, “If you go back to the start of the drought, May and June of 2020, and you look at the precipitation deficits through now, they’re anywhere from 15 to 25 inches below average. That is reflected in the D3 and D4 region.”
“We will need several months, if not more than a year of above average precipitation to really put a dent in those regions,” he continues.
The latest maps indicate just over 0.5% of the state is suffering from D4 exceptional drought. D3 extreme drought spans more than 8% of the state in the northwest corner. Over 20% of Iowa is suffering from D2 severe drought, and another almost 25% is in D1 moderate drought. Nearly 29% of the Hawkeye state is abnormally dry. Portions of eastern and south central Iowa are free of drought stress.
At the end of 2022, D4 exceptional drought was present in the northeast corner of Colorado covering about 0.5% of the state, across parts of Sedgick and Phillips counties. Exceptional conditions had been persistent in these counties since early August.
As of the report released January 26, 2023, D4 has been eliminated from the northeast region, and is now present in a tiny sliver of Baca county in the southeast.
D3 extreme drought is present in parts of five counties along the eastern border – Sedgwick, Phillips, Kiowa, Prowers, and Baca – and covers nearly 2% of the state. That’s down dramatically from over 20% at this time last year.
D2 severe drought covers parts of 9% of the state, also down significantly from late January 2022 when it consumed over 45% of Colorado.
D1 moderate drought is present across just over 24% of the state.
Conditions on the western side of the state range from abnormally dry to no drought conditions.
Assistant State Climatologist Beck Bolinger says, “Precipitation so far in 2023 has been excellent for the northeastern part of CO and western CO. For western CO, this precipitation, in the form of snowpack, is essential for our future water supplies. For northeast CO, this is the drier time of year, so it’s not a total drought buster, but definitely helpful. Southeast CO has been missing out on a lot of the storm activity through the fall and winter and is the worst off in our state right now.”
Maps from the Iowa Environmental Mesonet indicate 2023 snow totals are as high as 77 inches in the southwestern part of the state.
Despite significant improvement, according to drought.gov, all 64 counties in Colorado have USDA disaster designations.