Farm Progress

Midwest drought eases its grip

Some corn-growing areas are getting relief from the flash drought, but the 2023 crop isn't out of the woods yet.

Bloomberg, Content provider

July 6, 2023

2 Min Read
Dry field corn before harvest

By Brian K. Sullivan with assistance from Tarso Veloso

The Midwest “flash drought” that gripped the region through the spring and early summer has shown a glimmer of relaxing with dry areas dropping for the first time since May.

Drought across the Midwest fell to 63.54%  from 64.71% a week ago, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. The area of extreme and exceptional drought rose however from 3.52% to 4.27% for the week ending July 4.

Three months ago only 5.46% of the Midwest was in drought.

Through spring and early summer a resilient block of high pressure parked across northern North America, which was responsible for Canada’s record wildfire season, as well as leaving the Midwest parched, said Brad Rippey, a meteorologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“What transpired in the Midwest this spring and early summer is a classic flash drought, despite the absence of sustained heat,” Rippey said in an email interview. “In other words, drought has developed quickly, in spite of relative cool conditions.”

The recent rains have contributed to a drop in corn futures through Wednesday. The crop saw its biggest drop since early 2021 as larger acreage and improving crop conditions signaled better supplies.

Rippey said that blocking high that has kept the Midwest and a large part of Canada dry has shown signs of breaking down. But this has come at a cost — on June 29 a derecho ripped across northern Missouri and southern Iowa east to central and southern Indiana bringing widespread damage from winds of between 60 to 100 miles per hour.

“The big question for agriculture is how much damage has been done, now that some rain is starting to fall again,” Rippey said. “Chances are we’ve already trimmed some corn yield potential, but soybeans in most areas can still fully recover.”

The region isn’t completely in the clear, a second high pressure system that has been bringing record heat to Texas and taxing its power grid, could expand northward in July and August, which would compound problems across the Midwest.

©2023 Bloomberg L.P.

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