Drought has worsened in recent weeks in the Great Plains, fueling concerns over wheat yield potential. The most recent U.S. Drought Monitor indicates "moderate drought" in southern Kansas and Oklahoma. Surrounding wheat areas were classified "abnormally dry." Worse drought may have been expected in HRW wheat given very dry weather conditions in recent weeks.
No rainfall developed this past week in the central Great Plains. This culminates a prolonged period of drought that began several weeks ago. The map below reveals serious drought in Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska and the west Texas Panhandle.
The Kansas drought is the most worrisome for winter wheat production, as this is the leading U.S. wheat state. Kansas wheat production last season made up 24% of U.S. winter wheat overall. Hard red wheat production finished at 826.9 million bu. the largest HRW harvest in three years.
Weakening El Nino Affects U.S. Great Plains
Drought in the Great Plains may be linked to a weakening El Nino. This climate anomaly reached peak strength in November 2015, but has been declining ever since. As the El Nino has weakened, significantly drier weather conditions have emerged in the U.S. heartland.
Sea-surface temperatures have chilled down to 1.5 C above the mean in the eastern equatorial Pacific Sea, the sensitive Nino 3.4 region, down from a previous peak of 3 C in mid-November. The steady decline in the El Nino spells drought for the U.S. Great Plains.
Mississippi River Flooding, Replanting Necessary
Widespread flooding developed last week in the lower Mississippi River valley from excessive rainfall this past week. Eastern Arkansas was hit with 4-6 inches of rainfall, more than a month's worth of moisture, flooding farmland and setting back spring planting. Mississippi and Louisiana farmland also was flooded.
The Delta is an important soybean growing area making up 9% of the national crop. Corn, cotton and rice are also widely produced in the Deep South. Cropland that flooded would need to be replanted.
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