Farm states suffer expanded drought
A dire drought that has plagued Texas and parts of Oklahoma expanded across the key farming state of Kansas over the last week, adding to struggles of wheat farmers already dealing with weather-ravaged fields.
Harvest in Kansas, the top U.S. wheat-growing state, is set to begin within weeks. But a report issued Thursday by a consortium of climatologists said the three most severe levels of drought spread across the state over the last week, with the most dire conditions concentrated in the key wheat-growing south-central and southwest parts.
"It is pretty bad," said Kansas state climatologist Mary Knapp. "For a lot of these areas... the last significant rainfall was in July of last year."
Kansas now has 50 percent of the state suffering severe levels of drought or worse, up from 41 percent last week, according to the Drought Monitor report. Just three months ago, less than 4 percent of Kansas was suffering severe drought or worse.
The drought is eroding production potential at a time when every bushel counts.
"This is a concern. You are seeing that drought move its way northward," said Mark Svoboda, climatologist with the University of Nebraska and the National Drought Mitigation Center.
"Along with the U.S., France, and China all are experiencing some pretty nasty drought that is going to have a major global impact on commodities, wheat in particular," said Svoboda.
Wheat harvest is underway and production is expected to be curtailed substantially because of the drought.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture on May 11 forecast that Kansas would harvest 261.8 million bushels of wheat this summer, down from 27 percent from a year ago. The Texas and Oklahoma wheat crops are forecast to fall more than 50 percent because of the drought, causing the overall U.S. winter wheat crop to be estimated as the smallest in five years.
Photo shows parched earth from drought in Texas. Credit http://tamunews.tamu.edu/2011/04/07/texas-drought-has-hit-critical-stage-and-may-worsen/