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Illinois is Dusty and Prone to Flash Drought With No Rain in the Forecast
Illinois Ag Connection - 05/29/2023

A forecast with little-to-no precipitation has the potential to cause rapid on-set drought conditions for farmers in Illinois.

Despite the dry conditions, Bryan Severs, a third generation farmer in Vermilion County and the treasurer for the Illinois Soybean Association, says that his crops are looking great right now. He does admit, though, that it’s dusty and dry on his operation, with rainfall falling short of the average. “We haven’t had a decent rain for a good ten days,” Severs says. “There’s dust everywhere. Hopefully we get rain in the next ten days.”

Severs says corn and soybean planting started on his farm the week of April 11 and finished early. “We’ve been done for three weeks,” he says.

While Severs says he’s glad they planted early, he does admit to being superstitious with the concern that being done with planting prior to May 21 will result in a drought year. That date sticks out to Severs because it’s his wedding anniversary, and anytime he’s finished planting before May 21, it’s been a drought year. “I broke my rain gauge yesterday on purpose to change the luck on that,” Severs shares.

The recent drought monitor map shows a slight increase in drought conditions across the state. While none of the state is experiencing greater than D1 moderate drought conditions, the northeastern part of the state has seen drought conditions worsen. Just over 2% of the state is experiencing D1 moderate drought conditions, while nearly 46% of the state is abnormally dry. Just over 52% of the state’s acres are drought-free, compared to the over 73% of drought-free acres just one week ago.

To help his crops survive through the dry days, Severs shares that he’s put nitrogen with a stabilizer to help keep the nitrogen in the soil longer and help keep the nutrients in the soil readily available for his crops. “That’s one thing we’ve done a little bit differently this year.”

Trent Ford, Illinois state climatologist, shared concerns about the potential for rapid on-set drought conditions within Illinois as a result of the past few weeks without precipitation and little-to-no rain in the seven-day forecast.

As plants start to grow, Ford says that more moisture will be drawn out of the soil. That, paired with warmer temperatures and missed opportunities for rain are, “setting us up for the formula for flash drought.”

“We’re going to get to a point where,” Ford warns, “if we don’t get any rain, it’s going to tax the soil pretty heavily.”

Unfortunately, Ford says there isn’t much that farmers can do once their crops are already in the ground to prepare for the worsening drought conditions, especially without irrigation to supply additional moisture. He adds, with corn having been planted in dry soils, there’s moisture further down that the crops can tap into, “if the roots can get down pretty deep.”

Soil moisture supplies as of the May 22 Crop Progress Condition report for Illinois confirm that slightly more moisture can be found deeper in the soil. Topsoil moisture supplies rated 4% very short, 14% short, 65% adequate, and 17% surplus. Subsoil moisture ratings were 5% very short, 11% short, 72% adequate, and 12% surplus.


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