Eastern Corn Belt drought expands

An irrigation specialist says a dry winter has created a significant water deficit across the Eastern Corn Belt.

Lyndon with Michigan State University and Purdue University tells Brownfield it’s very rare to have static water levels, or how high soil profiles are saturated, during the winter decline with many areas receiving about half the amount of moisture as normal.

“It’s been a dramatic flip as just a year ago we were still looking at wet places and people thinking about doing additional drainage, even in the sandy soils,” he explains.  

Kelley says while the lower water levels are ideal for additional fieldwork and management, tillage and cover crops can further deplete moisture.

“No-till has a definite advantage and minimum till has a definite advantage in keeping the moisture that’s in the ground there,” he says.  “It may not be an issue if you get some timely rains in your area, you may be able to rebuild that moisture.”

Kelley is reminding farmers to have their irrigation equipment ready to use in case dry conditions remain and document water levels to monitor usage.

The U.S. Drought Monitor continued to expand dry and drought conditions across states in the Ohio Valley in its latest report.  Thirty percent of Michigan topsoil moisture levels are short or very short and the entire lower peninsula is experiencing moderate drought conditions.

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