Midwest Drought Conditions Threaten Winter Wheat Crop

U.S. Drought Conditions USDA
U.S. Drought Conditions USDA

According to reports from the USDA, 2012 was one of the driest and warmest years on record for Midwestern states; 62 percent of which have started the new year in a drought. Climatologists reported that the lack of precipitation expected this winter threatens to put Nebraska winter wheat farmers in a bleak circumstance.

The USDA estimates that 49 percent of Nebraska’s winter wheat crop is in poor to very poor conditions; South Dakota and Kansas are reportedly in similar conditions. Many Nebraskan communities are 10 inches behind the average annual rain fall, according to USDA reports. In order for the winter wheat crop to have a chance at success, Nebraska State Climatologist Al Dutcher told the Northern Colorado Community Radio KUNC that it will take record-breaking snowfall of 120–150 inches. Unfortunately, Dutcher noted there are no predictions for this amount of snow in Nebraska in the coming weeks.

According to Michael Hayes of the Drought Mitigation Center, the drought is also expected to have a negative effect on rivers and streams that are typically fed by the melting snow on the Rockies, which is seeing “normal” snowfall. “There are going to be a lot of pressures put on politicians and the managers of those river systems to fairly allocate how that water gets distributed,” Hayes said.

Climatologists hope that the dry weather that settled over Texas and the Gulf of Mexico in 2012 will not repeat itself and instead will allow for moisture from these areas to feed states like Nebraska. If the dry weather continues in 2013 and migrates north again, climatologists predict it could put many farmers in dire straits.