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North Dakota among the High Plains states where drought conditions are prevalent

High Plains states very dry

Submitted Photo Sitting atop the High Plains states, most of North Dakota is considered to be in severe drought. Although dry, soil moisture conditions in neighboring South Dakota are not as dire as much of North Dakota.

It still is not good, but at least it didn’t get any worse for North Dakota. That’s the assessment of the U.S. Drought Monitor in its weekly issuance of soil moisture conditions throughout the country.

One week ago the Drought Monitor considered 58.25% of North Dakota to be in “severe” drought and 91% to at least be in “moderate” drought. Those numbers didn’t change this week. No improvement. No relief. Plain and simple, conditions across the entire state are very dry and, with little or no snow cover, the prospect of replenishing soil moisture through snowmelt remains a growing concern.

The Drought Monitor notes that, mostly due to extremely cold temperatures the past several days, “there were few changes to the High Plains’ drought depiction.” North Dakota sits atop the High Plains, which includes neighboring South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Wyoming, and Colorado.

Significant precipitation that fell in the U.S. this past week was primarily confined to the northern Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Northwest. However, Nebraska benefited too. The Cornhusker State was targeted by snowfall Feb. 6-7 with almost 12 inches of snow falling on North Platte on the western side of that state and almost 10 inches at Lincoln on the eastern side.

Not so farther north, particularly in North Dakota and Montana, according to the Drought Monitor which also raised an issue very much on the minds of growers.

“Mostly dry weather persisted, however, in several areas, including northeastern Montana and the Dakotas, where lack of snow cover remained a concern with respect to lack of insulation for winter wheat during the protracted spell of sub-zero temperatures.”

As concerning as drought conditions are in North Dakota, there’s even worse conditions elsewhere in Wyoming, Colorado and a large area of the southwest. In North Dakota though, moisture remains vital to what is almost entirely a grain growing and cattle ranching state. Without ample soil moisture, crop germination is generally poor and haylands fail to produce adequate feed for livestock.

Winter is not yet over, meaning there’s several more weeks in which snow can fall. Also, spring rains sometimes quickly improve soil moisture conditions. In 2020 though, rainfall in the Minot region, and much of the state, was far below normal. Yet, thanks to wet soils coming out of winter and timely summer rainfall, overall crop production was quite good.

Currently, given the very dry conditions that grip the state, it is a very different situation than what existed for the 2020 planting season. And don’t expect any relief soon. The Climate Prediction Center says the chances of the state receiving any significant moisture the remainder of this month are below normal.

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