US Plains crops stunted by lack of rain

Wet weather made for a rather dry October across the country’s farm belt, with nearly 80 percent of farms reported being offline for some period of time.

As a result, crops in Western and Southeast states, along with Arkansas and the Southern Plains, are being stunted or dying from lack of moisture. Rice varieties in Kansas and Oklahoma have wilted, while Pennsylvania and Michigan are suffering from complete losses of corn.

According to data compiled by the National Agricultural Statistics Service, more than 2.6 million acres in Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Indiana, Arkansas, Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico were affected by October’s weather.

In addition, South Dakota and Nebraska were nearly 70 percent off grid.

It was the first time in nearly 30 years that weather affected both the West and South, according to Bloomberg data. The frequency was starkly different in 2012, when the Federal Emergency Management Agency said it had to help about 25,000 farmers in five states struck by a series of damaging tornadoes, strong winds and flooding. It was the first time that EF-4 or EF-5 tornadoes struck the Plains region in more than 35 years.

According to drought monitor data, only 5 percent of Texas still had drought conditions on Nov. 20, and 17 percent of Oklahoma was dry. Neither were drought conditions worse than a year ago, though the percentage of both states off-grid was far greater on that date in 2016, when the drought conditions were 15 percent across the state.

The totals are based on data gathered by state and private growers, with limited surveys in New Mexico, South Dakota, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, and Nebraska. Kansas and North Dakota, which also suffered severe drought conditions in 2016, had no response from growers to the data.

“Right now, farmers have hope in this season — something’s going to come along to bring us a rain or a cold front to hold back the drought,” said Don Keeney, a meteorologist for MDA EarthSat Weather in Boulder, Colorado. “If that doesn’t occur, they will run out of time, and we are near that limit right now.”


Vermont drought strangling crops, experts say

JAMESTOWN, Vt. —A dry start to Vermont’s 2018 agriculture season means drought conditions and heat spells for farmers in the northeast corner of the state. The dryness in early October was bad enough that rain was recorded just four days later at Lake Champlain.

The rainfall was good news for irrigation, but off-and-on heat threatens to diminish crop yields as of late November.

The state Department of Agriculture, Markets and Food had reports of near-record levels of frost damage in some areas. One farmer in Manchester reported a burned corn yield and irrigation had to be scaled back for most crops.

Frost will freeze plant buds and foliage later this winter and spring. Melting snow and rain later in spring will shed new seed heads on plants and cause more harm.

Vermont experts say this drought is no climate change anomaly, but a recurrence of long-term weather patterns. In the Northeast, average temperatures have risen by nearly 3 degrees Fahrenheit from 1984 to 2017, while water availability has been trimmed.

Small potatoes and potatoes-yugy, an aromatic variety of leafy greens, have been in high demand, helped by recent drought conditions.

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